NEW DELHI -- Describing it amongst the "darkest hours for the Supreme Court of India," Anup Surendranath, a Supreme Court deputy registrar, has resigned over its decision to execute 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon on July 30.
The apex court turned down Memon's final petition to stay his execution for 14 days at a pre-drawn hearing on Thursday.
"I have been contemplating this for a while now for a variety of reasons, but what was played out this week at the Supreme Court was the proverbial final nail --- I have resigned from my post at the Supreme Court to focus on death penalty work at the University," Surendranath, the deputy registrar for research, wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday.
"It is in many ways liberating to to regain the freedom to write whatever I want and I hope to make full use of that in the next few days to discuss the events that transpired at the Supreme Court this week," he wrote.
Memon was found guilty of conspiracy of criminal conspiracy by a TADA court, which is constituted under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, and sentenced to death in 2007. The decision to execute the 53-year-old chartered accountant for his role in the deadly attack, which killed 257 people on March 12, 1993, has deeply polarised politicians, intellectuals, lawyers, and the public in India.
Opinions are divided on whether Memon's role in the attack warranted execution, and also on the overarching question of whether India should abolish the death penalty.
Those against the decision have argued that Memon surrendered and cooperated with the Indian authorities, and handed over crucial evidence which showed Pakistan's involvement in the serial blasts. They have also pointed out that Ibrahim (Tiger) Memon, Yakub's elder brother, and underworld don Dawood Ibrahim - the two prime accused in the case - are absconding from justice.
Ahead of Memon's execution, several eminent Indians, including former Supreme Court judges, activists and politicians, petitioned President Pranab Mukherjee to stay the execution. They cited procedural lapses and "disturbing aspects of this case which make the award of death sentence of Yakub Memon as grossly unfair, arbitrary and excessive."
The other side said that Memon's case fit the "rarest of rare" category for which the death penalty is handed down in India, and he had exhausted all legal avenues over the course of 22 years including the unprecedented pre-dawn session in which three Supreme Court judges reconsidered his petition just hours before his hanging was scheduled.
"I think there cannot be a more transparent system," Home Minister Rajnath Singh said after the hanging on Thursday. "This has never happened before in history of world, that a nation's Supreme Court heard somebody mercy petition at 2.15am in the night."
While the Supreme Court has been hailed for opening its door after midnight to hear Memon's petition, Surendranath, who is also director of the Death Penalty Research Project at the National Law University, Delhi, accused the apex court of "judicial abdication."
"It would be silly and naive to see the events of the last 24 hours at the Supreme Court as some triumph of the rule of law --- the two orders at 4pm on 29th July and 5am on 30th July (and the reasoning adopted therein) are instances of judicial abdication that must count amongst the darkest hours for the Supreme Court of India," he wrote in a Facebook post.
In a contrasting opinion, Gopal Sankaranarayanan, a Supreme Court advocate, wrote in Economic Times today that justice had been delivered in India's constitutional system: "This verdict has been tested and found true on appeal, review and curative."
"Josef Stalin's words could be recalled, A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic,'" he wrote.