After a night of unprecedented legal developments in which Yakub Memon fought for his life, the chartered accountant, convicted in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts case, was hanged shortly before 7:00 am on Thursday morning at the Nagpur Central Jail.
Memon was declared dead at 7:01 am. He turned 53 today.
The 1993 serial bomb blasts, carried out three months after the destruction of the Babri Masjid in December, 1992, claimed the lives of 257 people.
Security across Maharashtra, especially in Mumbai and around the Nagpur jail, has been beefed up to counter any outbreak of violence in the wake of the execution.
Memon's body was handed over to his family by the Maharashtra government on three conditions: no public procession, funeral in a timely manner, no public release of the photograph.
Memon's Week-Long Legal Battle
In a pre-dawn session of the Supreme Court, Justices Dipak Misra, Prafulla Chandra Pant and Amitava Roy heard Memon's last plea for a 14-day stay on his execution to mentally prepare himself and meet with family.
They rejected the plea shortly before 5:00 am.
"Stay of death warrant would be a travesty of justice," said Justice Dipak Misra.
Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi said this decision was not a question of "victory," but the end of a legal process.
Anand Grover, Memon's lawyer, said that he had exhausted all legal remedies. "The Supreme Court has made a tragic mistake," he said. "I hope Yakub Memon has a dignified death."
President Pranab Mukherjee rejected Memon's final mercy petition filed on Wednesday at around 12:30 am. Citing a recent Supreme Court judgment which said that a gap should be given after rejecting a mercy plea and before a convict is executed, his lawyers argued for a 14-days stay on his execution.
But the apex court ruled that Memon's mercy petition on Wednesday could not be seen as independent from his earlier petition, filed by his brother, which was rejected in April. The three judges decided that Memon had received adequate time to make his legal case and settle his personal affairs.
Earlier in the week, the two-judge bench of Justice A.R. Dave and Justice Kurian Joseph delivered a split verdict on Memon's plea to stay his execution on July 30, and referred the matter to the Chief Justice of India. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court dismissed his plea that there were procedural lapses in the manner in which his death warrant was issued.
The Maharashtra government told the court that Memon has exhausted all legal remedies, and the death sentence should be carried out as a deterrent for those who plot terror attacks against India. The government has also emphasised the need to provide closure to the families of victims, who have waited 22 years for justice.
The Maharashtra Governor CH Vidyasagar Rao turned down his mercy petition on Wednesday evening.
Memon was found guilty of criminal conspiracy in the Mumbai bomb blasts case, and he was sentenced to death in 2007. He was the the younger brother of Ibrahim Memon, also known as Tiger Memon, the prime accused in the case, who is absconding. During the course of the investigation, it was revealed that it was Tiger who got Yakub involved in the deadly attack on Mumbai.
While being convicted of a conspiracy to commit the terrorist attack, Memon had argued that he was never actually involved in executing the serial bomb blasts on March 12, 1993.
The case has deeply polarised opinion after it has become increasingly clear that Memon cooperated with Indian intelligence agencies to return with family from Karachi, where they were under the protection of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan's intelligence agency.
Indian intelligence official B. Raman has written a piece confirming Yakub's cooperation, highlighting the fact that he had brought evidence which helped India prove Pakistan's involvement in the event, which was published in the news outlet Rediff.com recently.
Memon's execution today sparked varied political reactions for and against the death penalty.
Saddened by news that our government has hanged a human being. State-sponsored killing diminishes us all by reducing us to murderers too.— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) July 30, 2015
Several eminent Indians, including former Supreme Court judges, film makers, activists and politicians, petitioned Mukherjee to stay Memon's execution citing procedural lapses and "disturbing aspects of this case which make the award of death sentence of Yakub Memon as grossly unfair, arbitrary and excessive."
In a letter to Mukherjee, they wrote that Tiger Memon and Dawood Ibrahim are the main conspirators in the case. "Both Tiger Memon and Dawood Ibrahim have been absconding and Yakub, brother of Tiger Memon, who was not the main actor in the conspiracy is being executed," they wrote.
Correction: An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated that Yakub Memon turned 54 today. He was executed on his 53rd birthday.