Supreme Court's larger bench hears Yakub Memon's plea afresh

New Delhi: A three-judge newly constituted bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday heard afresh the plea of Yakub Abdul Razak Memon, the sole death row convict in 1993 Mumbai blasts case after two judges gave a split order, is expected to pronounce its decision later in the day.

The bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra, before rising for lunch recess, said it will pronounce the order on Wednesday itself, if the counsel for the parties 'cooperate'. The arguments will continue after the lunch break.

Senior advocate Raju Ramachndran, appearing for Memon, initiated arguments by referring to the separate, divergent orders passed by Justice A R Dave and Justice Kurian Joseph on Tuesday and said that the procedures established by the law have not been followed while deciding the curative petition of the convict.

Ramachandran said, "The judges, who were part of judicial process earlier, must be party to curative petition. It cannot be decided by judges who are strangers to the matters." He further said that besides the three senior most judges, the curative petition should have been circulated to the judges, if available, who had decided the criminal appeal and the review petition.

Senior advocates T R Andhyarujina and Anand Grover both supported the contention of Ramachandran and said that this death warrant is illegal and can not be executed on Thursday. Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, who is presently continuing his argument, said that the court should not forget the fact that it was the first terror attack at the heart of the country that had led to the death of 257 persons and several hundred injured.

Rohatgi had on Tuesday told the two judge bench that all judicial remedies available to Memon got exhausted with the dismissal of the curative petition on July 21. A three-judge bench headed by CJI had on July 21 rejected Memon's plea, contending that the grounds raised by him for relief did not fall within principles laid down by the apex court in 2002 in deciding curative petitions.

Memon, in his plea, had claimed he was suffering from schizophrenia since 1996 and has remained behind bars for nearly 20 years, much more than a person serving life term has to spend in jail.

He had sought commutation of death penalty, contending that a convict cannot be awarded life term and the death sentence for the same offence. The apex court had on June 2, 2014 stayed the execution of Memon and referred his plea to a Constitution Bench as to whether review petitions in death penalty cases be heard in an open court or in chambers.

The apex court had on April 9 this year dismissed Memon's petition seeking review of his death sentence which was upheld on March 21, 2013. Memon's review petition was heard by a three-judge bench in an open court in pursuance of the Constitution Bench verdict that the practice of deciding review pleas in chambers be done away with, in cases where death penalty has been awarded.

12 coordinated blasts had rocked Bombay, as the city was then known, on March 12, 1993, leaving 257 dead and over 700 injured.

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