New Delhi: "Justice has prevailed for the families of those who lost their lives in the 1993 Mumbai blasts," attorney general Mukul Rohatgi said on Thursday on the Supreme Court ruling that came shortly before Yakub Memon was hanged.
"I am happy that the long process has come to an end. The convict was given opportunity for 22 years. Memon's review petition and mercy petitions were dismissed. He also got the right to have second review plea heard in an open court," Rohatgi told PTI.
Explaining the opportunities given to Memon and all the legal remedies exhausted by him, Rohatgi said, "A curative petition was filed and was dismissed on July 21, this year. A new writ petition was heard from July 27 till Wednesday. Even the Maharashtra governor and the President rejected his clemency pleas again. Then fresh petitions were moved at midnight in the Supreme Court and that ultimately culminated into this."
Hailing the apex court for its unprecedented hearing, Rohatgi said, "I am happy that the Supreme Court rose to the occasion. It heard the plea of a condemned prisoner like Memon who was involved in the killing of 257 people. It is now a role model for all courts in India and a beacon for justice.
"Esteem of the apex court has risen tremendously. In an unprecedented hearing, it heard a case at 3am because the hanging was due for 7am, notwithstanding the fact that the bench had heard the plea of the convict from 10.30am to 4.30pm yesterday after giving hearing to both sides," he said.
Expressing similar views, former attorney general Soli Sorabjee said, "I am very proud that we have a judiciary which is very sensitive to the rights of the people."
Reacting to the concern that all convicts facing death penalty cases could now demand an all night hearing just hours before execution, both the former and the present attorney generals termed it a case which required such a move by the apex court and said all cases are different.
"Unprecedented hearings have occurred in the past also. SC does not make discriminations, it has upheld the majesty of law. This last minute hearing was agreed to by the SC because of the convict's latest mercy petitions which were moved yesterday," Rohatgi said, adding "It is unfortunate that there was no other way in this case."
"It was a special case," Sorabjee said, adding that it won't lead to a practice of approaching the apex court at midnights in all cases.
Rohatgi, who had opposed Memon's plea in the apex court in an early morning hearing on Thursday, stressed on the need to expedite death penalty cases but said that capital punishment cannot be done away with due to prevalent terror strikes.
"I think in the present scenario, with terror attacks every second day, it is not appropriate to do away with death penalty. Death penalty is valid under Indian law and if you look at the number of executions in the last 10 years, you can literally count them on your fingers," he said.
Contesting opposition to capital punishment from activists and politicians on the ground that they are barbaric and should be done away with, he said, "people can have their own opinions. The debate on capital punishment cannot be held in the court. The courts have upheld it, end of the matter."
Sorabjee differed with his opinion and supported the idea of abolishing death sentence.
"I personally believe in abolition of death penalty but not in this case looking at the nature of the crime and also because Memon got enough chance to defend himself," he said.
Rohatgi, however, advocated that "deterrent effect of death penalties" has diluted due to the time taken in deciding such cases.
"Deterrence effect that death penalty is supposed to have has been diluted in the country for a simple reason that by the time death penalty is awarded, it is usually 15-20 years and it takes several years by the time death penalty is actually executed. We must speed up the process in death cases," he said.