Bhullar vs Yakub Memon
Death for one, life to the other
By Faraz Ahmad
Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar was the main accused in the terror killing of nine persons by detonating a remote controlled bomb outside the Youth Congress office at New Delhi’s Raisina Road in the heart of Luttyen’s bungalow zone on September 11, 1993 to kill Maninderjit Singh Bitta, the then Youth Congress.
Exactly six month earlier on March 12, 1993, underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and his lieutenant Tiger Memon, retaliating to the Shiv Sena/RSSsponsored Bombay riots of December 1992, organised the Bombay bomb blasts killing scores of people and injuring many more. A day before the explosions took place the entire Memon family including Tiger’s parents, brothers, their wives and children all flew to Dubai and soon thereafter shifted to Karachi, Pakistan.
One of the brothers of Tiger Memon, Yakub Memon, a successful chartered accountant by profession though not directly involved either in procuring the explosive material or in placing the bombs, also fled to Dubai and from there shifted to Karachi. But a year later, defying his brother and other family members left Karachi and returned to India via Nepal. The Police flaunted him as a big catch and claimed that it caught him in Delhi on August 5, 1994 while Yakub disclosed that he fled Karachi and turned himself over to the Indian authorities in Kathmandu, Nepal. The crux of the matter is that he turned himself over voluntarily and repeatedly assured his family members, “Since I have committed no wrong (He protests that he had no role in the bombing) I have nothing to fear and have full faith in the Indian judiciary.”
Memon’s trial carried on for next 13 years and on July 27, 2007 TADA judge of Bombay P D Kode handed him death sentence. Memon was so shocked at the sentence he burst into curses and expletives in the court. Six years later on March 21, 2013 the Supreme Court of India upheld his death sentence, describing him as the master mind of the whole operation. On April 11, 2014 President Pranab Mukherjee rejected his clemency petition and thus confirmed his death sentence.
Memon again appealed to the Supreme Court pointing out that his petition ought to have been heard in an open court. This too was rejected in April this year. A couple of days back the Supreme Court threw out his curative petition finding no merit in his protestations of innocence. Yakub Memon is to be hanged on July 30 because the court felt that being the brother of Tiger Memon, Yakub was complicit in the crime.
Some of what Yakub claims has now been confirmed by the mysterious appearance of the disclosure of former top honcho of R&AW late B Raman who soon after the TADA court sentenced Yakub to death, wrote an article for the Rediff.com portal pleading against Yakub’s death sentence and divulged a secret understanding between Yakub and R&AW whereby R&AW persuaded Yakub to return to India and tell all about Tiger and Dawood Ibrahim. Strangely Rediff.com sat on this piece of information all these eight years but finally published it on July 24, six days before Yakub’s hanging, describing it as an unpublished article of B Raman. The crux of the matter however is that just as Afzal Guru was working in cahoots with the Indian security agencies and was persuaded by the chief of the Srinagar based Special Task Force (STF) to go to Delhi to assist those involved in the December 13, 2001 Parliament attack, in the purchase of a car from Karol Bagh, similarly Yakub too returned to India through a secret deal between RAW and Yakub, and his hanging therefore will be a big loss of face for RAW. Also it will be asked how come Abu Salem, who had a far more active role in the Bombay bomb blasts, is being spared while Yakub is being sent to the gallows. But that is another matter. For the time being we only restrict ourselves to comparing the cases of Yakub Memon and Devinderpal Singh Bhullar.
Now let us examine the case of Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar. The investigating agencies charged Bhullar of being directly involved in the conspiracy in sofar as to be present in the vicinity of the explosion and holding the remote to detonate the RDX filled device which killed nine people on the gate of Youth Congress office. Soon after the bombing as his trail became hot, Bhullar fled to Germany and sought political asylum there which was rejected by the German government and he was extradited to India and tried by a TADA court, sentenced death on August 25, 2001, under a NDA regime, of which significantly the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) of Parkash Singh Badal was an important constituent.
Bhullar too went for a review petition to the Supreme Court. In 2006 the apex court found no merit in his plea, confirming his death sentence. His clemency petition was also rejected by the President in May, 2011. But just four months later in September the Supreme Court in an unprecedented move admitted a second appeal against his sentence. On March 31, 2014 a Supreme Court bench, presided over by Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam, commuted Bhullar’s death sentence on the ground of inordinate delay by the President of India in deciding Bhullar’s mercy petition.
There are two main differences between Bhullar and Yakub. There is a third which I won’t mention here. One, that Bhullar unapologetically flaunted his act of revenge while in Police custody and in the jail. Yakub on the other hand pleaded his innocence all through. Second, Bhullar escaped to Germany and fought hard not to return. He was brought back against his wishes to stand trial, while Yakub returned voluntarily from Karachi. No power in India could have brought back Yakub if he had chosen to stay back in Pakistan.
Earlier the same Supreme Court commuted the death sentences on the killers of Rajiv Gandhi also on the same plea. Now let us return to the case of Afzal Guru. The man was never given a fair trial, with a biased judge S N Dhingra already having made up his mind to hang all the accused, evidence or no evidence. The Supreme Court too found no evidence to directly connect Afzal Guru to the Parliament attack of December 13, 2001. But it handed Afzal the death sentence arguing that someone needed to be punished for such a heinous crime. There was inordinate delay by the President even deciding Afzal’s clemency petition. But he was hanged slyly in the Tihar jail, without even informing his wife and other family members and the state would not even hand over his body to his relatives.
I am opposed to death sentence per se and therefore not pleading for the hanging of either Bhullar or those accused of killing Rajiv Gandhi. But doesn’t this shake our faith in the fairness of our legal system and that our judiciary is even handed and fair to all.