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Flashback 2015: When the Supreme Court stayed up all night for Yakub Memon


One of the most eventful incidents of the year 2015 was the hanging of 1993 Mumbai blasts convict, Yakub Memon. This was probably the only case which dragged to such an extent that the Supreme Court kept its doors open at midnight to dispose off the last and final appeal.

After filing a series of appeals, Yakub Memon was hanged at 5 am at the Nagpur central jail on July 30. Yakub Memon the brother of prime accused, Tiger Memon had left the country after the blasts. However an year later he returned to India, although it is not clear whether he surrendered or was arrested.

When SC stayed up all night for Memon

The saga dragged on

Upon his return to India, Memon faced trial and was convicted for financing the blasts. He was sentenced to death and this began a chain of appeals which lasted over a decade. Memon moved the Supreme Court first and after his plea was rejected, he sought pardon from the President of India.

It was only last year that the President of India had rejected his mercy petition. He once again challenged this before the Supreme Court. The government of India however contended that the order of the President cannot be overlooked. The court accepted this contention.

Memon then moved the Maharashtra governor seeking pardon. At the same time he approached the president seeking pardon. The Governor of Maharashtra first rejected his plea and this was followed by a similar order by the President of India. Memon then sought recourse before the Supreme Court yet again, but his plea was rejected. He went up and filed yet another plea late in the evening.

The Supreme Court felt that this was a matter involving a death sentence and he be accorded another opportunity. His advocates waited outside the residence of the Chief Justice of India seeking an order to set up a Bench. At around midnight the same Bench which rejected his plea earlier during the day was set up to hear the matter.

The court heard the arguments till 3.30 AM and at around 4 am, passed a verdict in which Memon's plea to stay or put off his hanging was rejected.

The order was immediately faxed to the Nagpur central jail which had made arrangements for his hanging. At around 5 am Memon was hanged.

The handing over of the body

While it very rare to see the Supreme Court open that late into the night, it was also surprising to find that the Nagpur jail authorities decided to hand over Memon's body to his family members. While the jail manual does permit the body be handed over, it does not allow a public display of the funeral.

In probably one of the most blatant misuse of the law, the funeral had become a public spectacle. One does not understand what the Maharashtra government was thinking, but fortunately there was no violence and the procession went off smoothly before the burial took place. The only norm adhered to was that the body of the death convict was not shown to the public.

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