Memon was first convicted in 2007 by a Mumbai court for financing and organising the training in Pakistan of those who executed the attack. The Supreme Court upheld that verdict in 2013.
The end came after a night of dramatic developments when the Supreme Court opened its doors at 2.30-am on Thursday, July 30 to allow a three-judge bench to hear arguments in a fresh petition filed by Memon's lawyers, only to turn it down at around 5-am.
Yakub was hanged less than two hours later, the NDTV reported.
A landmark hearing
Earlier, close to midnight, soon after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected Yakub Memon's mercy plea on Wednesday night on the advice of the government, a group of lawyers gathered at the residence of the Chief Justice of India, asking him to hear a fresh petition moved by Memon's lawyers, arguing that the President could not decide on the mercy plea overnight and also that Memon's execution should not be allowed to proceed for the next 14 days.
In an unprecedented move, it was finally decided that a three judge bench would meet in the Supreme Court to hear the petition at 2.30-am on Thursday, July 30. The hearing was delayed to about 3.15-am to allow Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi time to reach the court and prepare to argue for government against Memon's petition.
According to the death warrant, Memon was to hang at 7-am on Thursday morning. But the lawyers contended that guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in January 2014 mandate the passage of minimum 14 days between the rejection of the final mercy plea and the execution of a prisoner.
In October 2013, Memon's brother had appealed to the President to commute his brother's sentence. The President had rejected the plea on April 11, 2014 on the recommendations of the Maharashtra government and the Union Home Ministry, saying there was no cogent reason to show mercy.
The plea that was heard and rejected by the President on Wednesday was moved by Memon himself.
In January 2014, a Supreme Court bench headed by the then Chief Justice P Sathasivam, while passing final orders in a writ petition filed by death convict Shatrughan Chauhan, laid down "guidelines for safeguarding the interests of death row convicts":
7. Minimum 14 days notice for execution: Some prison manuals do not provide for any minimum period between the rejection of the mercy petition being communicated to the prisoner and his family and the scheduled date of execution. Some prison manuals have a minimum period of 1 day, others have a minimum period of 14 days. It is necessary that a minimum period of 14 days be stipulated between the receipt of communication of the rejection of the mercy petition and the scheduled date of execution for the following reasons:-
a) It allows the prisoner to prepare himself mentally for execution, to make his peace with god, prepare his will and settle other earthly affairs.
b) It allows the prisoner to have a last and final meeting with his family members. It also allows the prisoners’ family members to make arrangements to travel to the prison which may be located at a distant place and meet the prisoner for the last time. Without sufficient notice of the scheduled date of execution, the prisoners’ right to avail of judicial remedies will be thwarted and they will be prevented from having a last and final meeting with their families.
It is the obligation of the Superintendent of Jail to see that the family members of the convict receive the message of communication of rejection of mercy petition in time.
Senior advocate Anand Grover appearing for Yakub Memon argued that mercy petition filed by the latter's brother could not displace his right to file a mercy petition. His right remained, Grover argued.
Grover maintained that he was not arguing against the sentence but, citing the Shatrughan Chauhan case, he said that under laid down guidelines for safeguarding the interests of death row convicts, the jailer is bound to communicate the rejection of mercy petition to nearest legal aid cell, so that the convict would have sufficient opportunity to challenge the rejection.
Grover went on to say that the president could not have applied his mind to Memon's petition within such a short time.
Grover also said the convict has a right to be informed in writing about the rejection of his mercy petition. He said there was no way of knowing if this was complied with.
Rejection is to be communicated to the convict and his family members in writing along with the actual order and as per the Supreme Court guidelines in the Shatrughan Chauhan case, Grover argued, pointing out that 14 days must lapse between rejection of mercy petition and execution of sentence so that the convict can make peace with god, draft his will, meet his family.
When asked if he was challenging the rejection of mercy petition, Grover said he could not do that without having seen the order.
Appearing on behalf of the government, Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi argued that the Death Warrant was issued on April 29 and served on July 13 and thus Memon got over 14 days to settle his affairs. Rohtagi went on to say that it was irrelevant whether the mercy petition had been filed by Memon's brother or by Memon himself.
He pointed out that the mercy petition filed by Memon's brother was dismissed by President Pranab Mukherjee on April 11, 2014 which was communicated to him on May 26, 2014, so Memon had got long enough time to settle his affairs.
Rohtagi said that rights under the Shatrugan Chauhan ruling are only available if the petitioner did not "abuse the system" by filing multiple petitions, otherwise a death warrant could never be executed if someone kept filing unlimited mercy petitions.
The idea, Rohtagi said, was to ensure that 4-5 years go by on the death row, so that delay could be pleaded and concluded by saying that Memon's petition sought "quashing of warrant" when the validity of warrant had already been upheld. The petition therefore was faulty.
Rohtagi maintained that the death warrant cannot be issued until final remedies are exhausted. But since the Supreme Court has upheld the validity of the death warrant it effectively meant that the debate about the mercy petition was over.
In his rebuttal, Grover argued that "terrorists also have fundamental rights". Rohtagi had argued that it was strange that the mercy petition was made merely 10 hours before the scheduled time for execution.
Grover said the mercy petition was not late, but was filed the day the curative petition was rejected.