This article was written by Satwika Jha a student of university of petroleum and energy studies on account of her submission for 1st National Article writing Competition organized by Racolb Legal in which she scored 1st position. 

It is rather ironic that I, a first year BA.LLB student is making a bold attempt at trying to analyse, interpret and comment on the justice, or lack thereof in a case as controversial as that of the now deceased Yakub Memon. It’s pure genius, how this 53 year old man became more of a laboratory specimen from a carnival reject, being scrutinized by even the most ignorant. After his much speculated upon execution, he underwent a radical transition from a terrorist into a celebrity. Even in death, this man did us all a favour, whose authenticity will come to light in the following years, for he unwittingly exposed our insatiable appetite for the morbid and the macabre, thus portraying India, the once land of heroes, as a wholesaler for live hangings, brutal town hall lynchings and public flogging- a barbaric place where Satan dines with Yamraj and a country whose brand ambassador should be Jihadi John, in all his glory. In an attempt to satisfy our collective clamour for closure, we transformed something as sombre and foreboding as death into a telecast that we’d all gladly watch like a happy family at the breakfast table. The acerbic debates and stark disagreements over Yakub’s capital punishment have brought a harsh side of Indians into the limelight…….sort of like the dark side of the moon- shrouded in intrigue, and fearsome. All Freudian concepts, starting from pent-up frustrations, biases, misplaced notions of assumed patriotism and apparent justice, have finally found a resonating voice, whose shrill overtone is enough to shatter and ruin us all. This entire scenario and the blatant conflict of opinions begs some very pertinent questions- Was Yakub Memon executed as punishment for his sins and criminal intent, or was he ruthlessly subjected to abjectness and ultimately killed to satisfy and legitimise our growing lust for human blood? Did the Indian polity and Judicial System mete out justice and provide closure to the families of the deceased from the 1993 Mumbai blasts, or did it only succeed in fulfilling its own bloody agenda by fueling the already rampant fanaticism of people, under the false banner of “Patriotism”?

             Yakub Abdul Razak Memon was a chartered accountant and an Indian Terrorist. On 27th July, 2007, the ‘Special Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Court’ convicted him for being an accomplice to his elder brother Tiger Memon, who was the prime suspect in the 1993 Mumbai blasts. Time and again, Yakub’s appeals and petitions for clemency were rejected and he was finally executed by hanging on 30th July, 2015, at Nagpur jail. Indian authorities asserted that Yakub provided financial and conspiratorial assistance to Tiger Memon and Dawood Ibrahim by allegedly handling Tiger’s funds and funding the training of 15 youths who were sent to Pakistan to be brainwashed and trained in the use of armaments. In addition to that, he also purchased vehicles that were used in the bombings and stockpiled weapons.

           As per the rock solid claims of the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation, Memon was arrested at New Delhi railway station on 5th August,1994. Contradictory to this, Memon claimed that he surrendered to the Nepal police on 28th July, 1994. At the time of his arrest, he was found with a briefcase which contained a recording of a conversation he had had in Karachi. Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam stated that he was unaware of the tacit understanding between Yakub and the investigating agencies. The fact about Yakub’s confession was probably not revealed because the prosecution did not want to weaken its case in any way. Nobody cared about Yakub-  they all acted unjustly and played on unfair grounds because for them, he was a dead man walking. In a ‘Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act [TADA] court, Justice P.D. Kode found Memon guilty of the following offences on 27th July, 2007:

ü  Criminal conspiracy to perform terrorist acts and disruptive activities, and murder { Punishment- Death }

ü  Aiding and abetting and facilitating a terrorist act { Punishment- Life imprisonment }

ü  Illegal possession as well as transportation of arms and ammunition { Punishment- Rigorous imprisonment for 14 years }

ü  Possessing explosives with intent to endanger lives { Punishment- Rigorous imprisonment for 10 years }

          Memon sought a review of the Supreme Court’s judgement confirming his death sentence, by filing a Review Petition. On 30th July, Memon’s application for oral hearing and his Review Petition were dismissed by the Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justice BS Chauhan. Memon’s Writ Petition was also turned down, followed by the Mercy Petition that was filed by his brother Suleman, before then President, Pranab Mukherjee. It was filed on 6th August, 2013, only to be denied after a prolonged delay, on 11th April, 2014. Memon’s plea for the review of death penalties to be heard in open courts rather than in closed chambers was heard and then extended in December 2014 by a constitution bench of the Supreme Court. In the meantime, a stay of execution was imposed on 1st June, 2104, by Justices J. Khehar and C. Nagappan. Senior Counsel Jaspal Singh represented Memon in his open court hearing on 24th March, 2015, but yet again his plea was denied on 9th April, 2015. A death warrant was issued by Maharashtra Government on 30th April, 2015, setting 30th July, 2015 as the date for his execution. Memon was fighting an uphill battle as all his pleas and petitions were rejected, one after the other, thus taking away from him every ounce of hope and any reason or motivation to salvage his life. In a last minute desperate attempt, he deemed the death warrant illegal as it had been issued before he had exhausted all his legal avenues of appeal. However, all his appeals and requests for a mercy stay were rejected and consigned to oblivion as the ramblings of a man who was standing at the portal of his imminent death. Several eminent personalities have criticised the capital punishment that was given to Yakub, but in vain. As a final effort, Memon filed a fresh writ petition on 28th July, 2015 in which he challenged the order passed in the curative petition. He contended that the required quorum was absent based on the interpretation of the Supreme Court rules. As expected, Memon’s lawyer’s arguments were rejected, and his execution was upheld.

           How is it that out of the entire lot of terrorists and masterminds, Yakub Memon was the only one that faced the death row like he was living an episode of  “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”? Why was his suffering and misery that culminated in being hung, made public? Or is it because he was the only one who could confess to his crimes and come clean? Death is the last intimate thing that we do and even that privilege was taken away from this man. It is rather disconcerting to find out that honesty is rewarded with eternal sleep instead of a fair trial and impartial judgement. In the Indian Judicial System, the death penalty is reserved for the rarest of rare cases. A crime of passion or even just a simple, premeditated murder, does not qualify for the death penalty under Indian Penal Code. Mens Rea and Actus Reus are not enough. When Yakub Memon was convicted, the spigots of saccharine morality were opened completely. India demonstrated her true democratic nature where everyone expressed their opinions with candour and it was ultimately proved that we mustn’t try to delude ourselves with ideal philosophies and meaningless words- the Gandhian philosophy of the unfavourable consequences of an eye for an eye should be spontaneously obliterated and replaced by Godse’s rabid communalism. Years of frustration, delay, suppression and resentment of the people had morphed into an open mob mentality where people would settle for nothing less than blood, no matter whose. Lawyers defending Yakub were heckled while anyone who disagreed with his hanging was hounded, tortured and dismissed as unpatriotic. Professionalism took a backseat as even the media that is normally regarded as the voice of the dumb, displayed twisted facts and outrageous scenarios instead of reporting actual facts of the case.

           The GREAT INDIAN HANGING saw several participating as voyeurs and guests, as every little detail of Yakub Memon’s ending life was subject to discreet scrutiny and consumption- from his new attire to his final meal, from the chicken leg he had to the birthday cake that he was deprived of. His execution turned into a ceremony and his death, a status update. We Indians claim to be the precursors of being humane, and yet we have a voracious appetite for tragedy. Sadly, we are as great suckers for death as we are for entertainment and cricket……..the kind of people that stand and watch the car crash in the middle of the road, and tweet about it. We weren’t always like this. But times change. And people change with time. We enjoy gaping at the agony of the victim and then move on nonchalantly, later using it to sermonise or turn into a television commercial. There was a time when we halted for a funeral procession and paid our respects to the departed but now all we do is honk incessantly and drive maniacally past the dead to the nearest club.

           Another fact still stands undisputed that the law is biased against some who plead and appear before it. Judges are a part of society that is governed by religion and they are very susceptible to it, under all circumstances. In a case like Yakub Memon’s, it is believed to appeal to the inner patriot and arouse nationalist sentiments where one wants the perpetrator to be brought to account, but what actually happens is that our lust for blood is aroused to its highest level, and from then onwards, it cannot be revoked. The discussion then shifts from what’s wrong and what’s right to how right is the wrong and how wrong is the right. Aficionados of a living constitution do not want to bring us flexibility; they only expect us to conform to their moral, or for that matter, their immoral standards. A vicious cycle of dirty, partisan politics with sharp communal overtones played a vital role in the hanging of Yakub Memon. Our political system is fallible and the judicial system is as susceptible to its fallacies as dogs are to distemper.

           India had been waiting to say Allah Hafiz to this man for a long time. They had been waiting for the moment when his body goes limp, his spine breaks, his tongue hangs out and his eyeballs dilate……the moment when he finally finds his place on the wall with a garland around his photograph. Nobody dared to blame the sadists that jostled Yakub’s mourning family to take selfies and be inhuman, as they took his body home. Nodody had the courage to question a judgement that took 20 years to culminate without giving the convict a fair trial. Nobody thought about Yakub’s ailing mother who couldn’t make it for her son’s final departure, or the daughter that he left fatherless or even the wife that he left behind to spend the remainder of her life in isolation. The day of Yakub Memon’s birth was the day that his death began walking towards him, and he had no idea. Why is there no outcry for that?

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