Shiv Sena on Monday alleged that the Congress Vice-Presidential candidate Gopalkrishna Gandhi had tried to save terror convict Yakub Memon from death penalty in 2015. Sena leader S Raut told ANI, “Madam ji (Sonia Gandhi) you selected Gopalkrishna Gandhi as VP candidate, he used all his power to save Yakub Memon from death penalty.” As many as 257 people were killed and over 700 injured in a series of 13-coordinated blasts that rocked Mumbai in 1993. Memon was the lone convict in the case hanged to death.
Before Memon’s execution in 2015, Gandhi had written a letter to the President of India Pranab Mukherjee, urging the latter to “reconsider” the rejection of the mercy plea of the 1993 Mumbai serial blast convict. In the letter, Gandhi, who served as the West Bengal governor earlier, invoked former President APJ Kalam’s opposition to the death penalty. “At this point in time, when the nation is paying solemn tribute to former President (Dr.) A.P.J. Abdul Kalam whose conscientious opposition to the death penalty is widely known, I urge you to reconsider the rejection of Yakub Memon’s mercy plea,” Gandhi said.
“It would, I suggest, be a fitting tribute to the humane legacy of President Kalam to grant Yakub Memon his life, for which course there are also other compelling reasons,” he added. Gandhi also cited the example of 1997, when the then President had granted reprieve to two boys from Andhra Pradesh following an appeal by eminent citizens like Mahashweta Devi.
The former Governor said that Memon had “submitted” himslef to the Indian jurisdiction when he could have “evaded justice.” Even , former Supreme Court Judges, he said, had openly said that Memon’s execution would be “unjust.”
Here’s the full text of Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s letter, which he had shared with the press, to President Mukherjee:
The President of India,
Esteemed Rashtrapati ji.
At this point in time, when the nation is paying solemn tribute to former President (Dr.) A.P.J. Abdul Kalam whose conscientious opposition to the death penalty is widely known, I urge you to reconsider the rejection of Yakub Memon’s mercy plea. In fact, President Kalam had, as recently as earlier this month, expressed his opposition to the concept of capital punishment. He expressed this opinion to the Law Commission, which has been holding deliberations regarding the desirability and efficacy of the death penalty. It would, I suggest, be a fitting tribute to the humane legacy of President Kalam to grant Yakub Memon his life, for which course there are also other compelling reasons.
It was in 1997 that Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma the President of India, upon an appeal by Mahashweta Devi and other eminent citizens granted reprieve to two boys from Andhra Pradesh, though their own mercy petitions had earlier been rejected by the President’s office. The reprieve in that case came virtually on the eve of their scheduled execution, and established the supreme constituent power of the President of India under Article 72 of the Constitution, to reverse his earlier decision, and heed voices of conscience to commute a death sentence.
Yakub Memon submitted to Indian jurisdiction, when he may quite easily have evaded justice. A respected officer of Indian intelligence has spoken of his cooperation with the law, thus rendering the death penalty completely inappropriate in his case. Former Supreme Court judges have openly said that his execution would be unjust. Public protestations of this nature and from such quarters are rare. They must give us pause, for whether or not there was a secret understanding with Memon that is being disregarded, a doubt would irretrievably be cast on India’s integrity of process if in the face of this, Yakub Memon is executed.
As many as 300 persons from all walks of life including former judges, lawyers, politicians and others have appealed to Your Excellency.
The head of the Indian republic, as President K.R. Narayanan memorably said, is guided by the prerogatives the Constitution gives him, and the privilege of intervention which his vast moral influence confers on him. I understand that this is also the broad position in law as enunciated in the Kehar Singh judgment of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court.
Less than a fortnight ago, the Law Commission of India held a day long consultation on Capital Punishment. I cannot say what conclusions the Law Commission will draw from these deliberations. I can, however, suggest that this, and other cases where mercy is sought will be understood more fully once the deliberations of the Commission are received.
I am sharing this letter with the press as this is a matter of urgent, general and public interest.
In the confidence that you will consider this representation, I am,