There is a Precedent for Pranab Mukherjee to Grant Clemency to Yakub Memon

This is the text of the letter Gopalkrishna Gandhi, ex-West Bengal Governor and former Secretary to President K.R. Narayanan (1997-2002), has sent to President Pranab Mukherjee today, July 29, 2015:

At this point in time, when the nation is paying solemn tribute to  former President (Dr.) APJ 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 73 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.