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SC judge recuses from hearing Memon's plea over death sentence
Wednesday November 12, 2014 8:09 PM, IANS

The Supreme Court Wednesday did not take up the plea of 1993 Mumbai bomb blast accused Yakub Abdul Razak Memon seeking review of its decision upholding his death sentence as Justice Uday Umesh Lalit recused from hearing the plea.

As the bench of Justice Anil R. Dave, Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice Lalit took up Memon's plea, Justice Lalit recused from hearing the matter, saying though he has not appeared for Memon, he had appeared for other 1993 bomb blast accused in their appeals challenging their conviction and sentencing before the apex court.

Before being sworn in as a judge of the Supreme Court Aug 13, Justice Lalit was a senior counsel practising in the apex court.

The apex court constitution bench had held Sep 2 that in cases where the death sentence has been upheld by the apex court, the convict will have a right that his petition seeking review of the verdict be heard by a three-judge bench in an open court.

"It (open court hearing) will also apply where a review petition is already dismissed but the death sentence is not executed so far. In such cases, the petitioners can apply for the reopening of their review petition within one month from the date of this judgment," the constitution bench had said.

The court March 21, 2013, had upheld the death sentence to Memon given by the special (now lapsed) TADA (Terrorism and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act) court and confirmed by the Bombay High Court.

Memon has been described as a mastermind of 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts - a series of 13 explosions March 12, 1993, that claimed 257 lives and left 713 injured.

President Pranab Mukherjee May 21 rejected Memon's mercy plea. He had applied for presidential pardon in October 2013.

In another review plea by a man named Sonu Sardar, the court asked Chhattisgarh Police to place before it the evidence that it was he who had delivered the fatal hit resulting in the death of the victims.

Sonu Sardar, along with Ajay Singh and three other people, went to the house of scrap dealer Shamim Akhtar and killed him and four other members of his family.

The apex court Feb 23, 2012, while upholding Sonu Sardar's death sentence, had said: "Five members of a family, including two minor children and the driver, were ruthlessly killed by the use of a knife, an axe and an iron rod and with the help of four others.

"The crime was obviously committed after premeditation with absolutely no consideration for human lives and for money."

"Even though the appellant was young, his criminal propensities are beyond reform and he is a menace to the society. The trial court and the high court were therefore right in coming to the conclusion that this is one of those rarest of rare cases in which death sentence is the appropriate punishment," the court had said in its Feb 23, 2012 judgment.

Seeking commutation of Sonu Sardar's death sentence, counsel Raju Ramachandran told the court that Sonu Sardar at the time of committing the offence was of a tender age as he was just a few months over the threshold age of a juvenile.

Ramachandran said the conviction of Sonu Sardar was based on the evidence of Shamim Akhtar's daughter Shabana Khatun who had not actually witnessed the assault as she had escaped from the house.

Ramachandran said it has been held by the apex court that it was "unwise, imprudent and unsafe" to sentence a person to death as children were prone to mix up what they see and imagine.

Justice Chelameswar was unimpressed by the reasoning, and said if a child's testimony was sufficient to convict a person, then how could it come in the way of deciding the quantum of sentence.

Chhattisgarh counsel Atul Jha took the court to the findings of the trial court and that of the apex court, contending that it was Sonu Sardar who had committed the crime.

He read the trial court findings which said that even four years after the crime, there was no remorse or regret for the crime he had committed.

Still looking for some credible evidence, the court asked Jha to place before it evidence to show that it was Sonu Sardar who had delivered the fatal hit.

The matter will come up for hearing Jan 20, 2015.

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