Yakub Abdul Razzak Memon, the lone death row convict in the March 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, was hanged in the Nagpur Central Jail early Thursday, after a prolonged legal battle that continued till barely a couple of hours before his execution.
The day also saw an unprecedented hearing being held at the Supreme Court at 3 a.m. when the court rejected Memon’s plea seeking postponement of his hanging by 14 days.
Hours later, Memon climbed on the gallows at 6.35 a.m., ironically, on his 54th birthday – and was pronounced dead at 7.01 a.m. by a medical team present there, along with a magistrate, a top prison official and others.
No family member was allowed inside the temporary hanging yard, inside the jail premises where he was made to “hang till death”.
Later, the body was sent for an autopsy inside the jail hospital, performed by a team from a nearby government hospital.
Memon was awarded the death penalty by a TADA court for 13 serial blasts that rocked several parts of Mumbai on March 12, 1993, resulting in the death of 257 persons and injury to 713 others.
The brother of “prime conspirator” Tiger Memon, Yakub Memon was allegedly arrested by the CBI from New Delhi Railway Station in August, 1994, though he and his family members disputed the official contentions and claimed he had “surrendered” to the Nepal police on July 28, 1994 in Kathmandu.
Shocked by the execution, Yakub’s brother Sulaiman and a cousin Usman, locked themselves up in a hotel room nearby, avoiding the media which had assembled in huge numbers there.
Memon’s wife Raheen and 21-year daughter Zubeida had also arrived in the city late Wednesday and were at an unknown location.
Around 3.30 a.m., Memon was woken up and permitted to take a bath, offered fresh clothes, breakfast of his choice, as per laid down standard procedures.
He was given facilities to offer ‘namaz’ and time to read religious books like Holy Quran, and then permitted a brief rest period.
A team of doctors carried out the final medical examination and found him physically and mentally fit, before he was taken to the temporary ‘phaansi yard’ (the hanging area) created in the Nagpur central jail.
He was hanged at 6.35 am and pronounced dead after 26 minutes at 7.01 hrs.
Initially, the authorities planned to follow the jail manual and declined to hand over Memon’s body to the family.
Later, Sulaiman submitted a letter to the jail demanding that the body should be handed for performing the last rites in Mumbai.
The body was released with stringent pre-conditions and brought to Mumbai where, wrapped in a white shroud and covered under a black cortege, it was taken in an ambulance to the Bismillah Manzil building in Mahim, near his home in Al Husseini building, where family members and relatives had gathered and offered ‘namaz’.
Accompanied by family members and a large posse of armed police, the body was then taken to the Bada Qabrastan near Marine Lines in south Mumbai and buried with full religious rites next to the graves of his parents.
A massive crowd gathered for Memon’s funeral. A huge media contingent was also present to cover the funeral although because of a police gag order, they were barred from either photographing or videographing the proceedings.
There was tight security all over Nagpur, Mumbai and sensitive pockets in the state, besides keeping Quick Response Team and anti-riot squads in full readiness. However, any untoward incident was reported from any part.
The legal battle was a long one.
In 2007, Special Judge P.D.Kode of the Special TADA Court in Mumbai had found Memon guilty of criminal conspiracy, aiding and abetting, facilitating a terrorist act, illegal possession and transportation of arms and ammunition and possessing explosives with intent to endanger lives, and awarded him the death sentence.
Thereafter, Memon attempted all legal options from the Bombay High Court to the Supreme Court and Maharashtra governor to the president, but failed to get a reprieve.
The efforts continued till barely a couple of hours before the hanging on Thursday when a three-judge bench of Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Prafulla Pant and Justice Amitava Roy, rejected a final plea, clearing the ground for his execution.