Yakub Memon: A tale of selective justice4 min read
On July 30 2015, Yakub Abdul Razak Memon was hanged till death at the Nagpur Central Jail for his involvement in the 1993 Bombay bombings. While some have rampantly supported the death sentence as being a form of much awaited justice, the rejection of the mercy petition denying clemency has also sparked a fair share of controversy. The first sentence indeed makes it easier (even enticing) to judge a man, and his involvement in a dastardly act of terrorism which took the life of more than 257 people and left 713 injured. Yakub’s case however is much more complex. A Chartered Accountant by profession, Yakub had handled his brother Tiger Memon’s funds, the actual mastermind of the blasts. He was convicted on charges of having funded the training of 15 youths who were sent to Pakistan to learn the handling of arms and ammunition. He was also accused of funding the escape of the Memon family following the blasts.
What often gets hidden in the judicial limbo of the dubious democracy of ours is the fact that Yakub was not arrested or caught by Indian officials at any point of time. He himself surrendered at the Kathmandu airport after having fled to Karachi, with 9 other members of his family. Not just that, he also brought sufficient evidence that lead to many new developments and incarceration of several others and pointed at the involvement of the ISI at meting out safe heaven to the Memons. Yakub expected a reward of leniency and clemency in his trial, but matters took a drastic turn.
The Central Bureau of Investigation claims that Memon was arrested from the New Delhi railway station on August 5 1994, a place that he claims he has never been to. It is difficult to determine as to which side is to be believed. Having been imprisoned since, he had spent more than 20 years behind bars. Justice P. D. Kode, in a Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) court, found Memon guilty on 27 July 2007.
The prosecution’s role in this trial has been repetitively seen as rigidly biased. His trial and sentencing has been subjected to legal and logical questioning. His capital punishment awarded under TADA, which since stands repealed by the Indian parliament. Yakub had also been certified as a schizophrenic by the jail medics, a condition which has long been held by the Supreme Court for rendering convicts unfit for execution. While his trial took 14 years to complete, he had already served more than 20 years behind bars. Even though the Supreme Court had commuted the life sentences of the 10 other co-accused (some of them, having actually had laid out the bombs), the same treatment was not meted out to Yakub. This leads one to question as to whether the bloodthirsty sentiment behind Yakub’s hanging, has more to do with setting an example than meting out justice.
Since the January 21, 2014, landmark judgment in the Shatrughan Chauhan case by a bench led by then Chief Justice of India P Sathashivam, 20 death-row convicts have had their sentences commuted to life. Among those sentenced are three convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination — V Sriharan (Murugan), T Suthendraraja (Santhan) and A G Perarivalan (Arivu). Devender Pal Singh Bhullar’s death sentence was also reduced to life imprisonment on March 31, 2014. The one thing that is similar in all these cases was the fact that they all had the support of a regional party in their states. There was a lot of public sentiment backing these fugitives, as well.
Yakub’s case on the contrary had no such public affiliation, particularly because of him sharing the same bloodline with Tiger. His name almost became synonymous with Tiger as being the “mastermind” of the attacks. Also, he had no political backing from any parties. The hypocrisy laced irony, dawns upon us when we start to question ourselves as to whether the judgement on Yakub was influenced by public sentiment or whether it was a clichéd but equally futile expression of action in the face of inaction, helping the masses believe that the wronged has been right.
While petitions were being sent to the President, requesting for reconsideration over the clemency issue, the media chose to portray grotesque details of the soon-to-happen hanging. The fact that the fourth pillar could stoop so low to celebrate the literal blood bath, was as shocking as it was worrisome. As the day dawned upon and people read about the death, certain news channels flashed colorful headlines explaining how the Mumbai blast victims would finally find closure for the loss of their near and dear ones. It felt almost jocular, to imagine someone who lost a loved one would compensate their loss, by the death of another human which he or she might have never known or heard about in their entire lives.
Did Yakub deserve to die, or was his death inadvertently caused because of his blood relation with Tiger Memon? I guess, we shall never know.
Raunak Bose is Reporter, The Manipal Journal.
The views expressed in the blog are personal.