Nagpur/New Delhi, Jul 30: Over 22 years after the 1993 Mumbai blasts, Yakub Memon, the sole convict on death row, was hanged on his 53rd birthday today after failure of last-gasp efforts by his counsels to stall the execution that led the Supreme Court to hear his plea in the wee hours before throwing it out.
Memon, whom the Supreme Court had described as the "driving spirit" behind the worst terror assault till date that left 257 dead and 713 wounded, was hanged at the Nagpur Central Jail shortly before 7 am, just about two hours after his last-ditch attempt to gain reprieve came to naught.
The body of Memon, who would have turned 53 today, would be handed over to his relatives who have been camping in a Nagpur hotel after completion of formalities.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is likely to make a statement in the Legislative Assembly, which is in session, later in the day. Yakub's execution, after a contentious debate an a mercy petition on his behalf to the President by eminent personalities, including some former Supreme Court judges, was preceded by an extraordinary hearing by an apex court bench that began at 3.20 am.
In a late Wednesday night move, Memon's counsels mounted a last-minute effort to save him from the gallows when they rushed to the residence of the Chief Justice of India H L Dattu with a petition for an urgent hearing to stay the hanging on the ground that 14 days' time is needed to be given to a death row convict to enable him challenge the rejection of his plea and for other purposes.
The legal manoeuvre followed an order of a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court yesterday upholding the death warrant issued by a TADA court against Memon on April 30 for his execution today.
The bench also held that a Supreme Court bench's rejection of his curative petition against his conviction and sentencing did not suffer from infirmities.
The move by Memon's counsels also came hours after the rejection of his mercy pleas, first by Maharashtra Governor and then by the President. After due consultations, the CJI constituted a 3-judge bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra, which had yesterday upheld the death warrant and refused to stay its execution.
The unprecedented pre-dawn hearing began in Court Room 4 at 3:20 am and, an-hour-and-a-half later when it concluded at 4:50 am, Memon's fate had been sealed. "Stay of death warrant would be a travesty of justice. The plea is dismissed," said Justice Dipak Misra, writing the judgement for the bench.