New Delhi: The Supreme Court will hear on Monday the plea by 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts convict Yakub Memon, challenging the death warrant issued against him and seeking the stay of his execution set for July 30.
“I have already assigned the bench. It will come by Monday,” said Chief Justice H.L. Dattu as senior counsel T.R. Andhyarujina mentioned the matter before the bench, which also comprised Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Amitava Roy, on Friday.
Memon has moved the court contending that death warrant for his execution on July 30 was issued even before he could have exhausted the legal remedies that were available to him and when his curative petition was pending consideration by the apex court.
The apex court on July 21 had rejected Memon’s curative petition saying that it was void of merit.
On the same day, Memon filed a mercy petition before the Maharashtra governor seeking commutation of his death sentence into life imprisonment.
Memon, in his petition before the apex court, has relied on the apex court’s May 27, 2015, verdict where it had quashed the death warrant issued for the execution of Shabnam and her paramour Salim, both convicted for multiple murders of members of the girl’s family members including a 10-month-old child, on the grounds of it being illegal as procedure was not followed.
Quashing the death warrant, the court had held that the “Right to live under Article 21 does not end with the confirmation of the death sentence by the Supreme Court”.
Holding that “even when death sentence has to be executed, the human dignity is protected”, the court had said: “That is the reason there are many judgments as to the manner in which the execution is carried should be as painless as possible.”
It had held issuance of death warrants by the sessions judge within six days of the apex court upholding the death sentence of Shabnam and Salim was “unwarranted”.
Memon and 11 others were slapped with the death penalty by the special TADA court in July 2007 for 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts in which 257 people were killed and 712 were injured.
The apex court by its March 21, 2013 verdict uphold his death sentence while commuting the death sentence of ten others (one having died subsequently) to life imprisonment.
The apex court on April 9 had dismissed Memon’s plea for the review of death sentence verdict for the second time as it had earlier dismissed his similar plea seeking the recall of March 21, 2013 verdict.
In a historic verdict, the Supreme Court on Thursday decriminalised homosexuality between consenting adults by declaring Section 377, the penal provision which criminalised gay sex, as “manifestly arbitrary”.
In separate but unanimous verdicts, a five-judge Constitution Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Rohinton Nariman, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra partially struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as unconstitutional.
The bench said it is no longer an offence for LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, intersex and queer/questioning) community to engage in consensual sex between two adults in private.
Reading out the judgment, Chief Justice Misra said attitudes and mentality have to change to accept others’ identity and accept what they are, and not what they should be.
“It is the constitutional and not social morality which will prevail,” said the court.
The verdict sparked celebrations in the LGBTIQ community across India even as the judgment was being read out. Many of the community members who had assembled outside the apex court jumped in joy and distributed sweets.
Chief Justice Misra said consensual sex between adults in a private space, which is not harmful to women or children, cannot be denied as it is a matter of individual choice.
Section 377 will not apply to consensual same-sex acts between homosexuals, heterosexuals, lesbians, the court said, clarifying that sexual act without consent and bestiality will continue to be an offence under section 377.
“An individual has full liberty over his or her body and his or her sexual orientation is a matter of one’s choice,” said the Chief Justice.
“Time to bid adieu to prejudicial perceptions deeply ingrained in social mindset. Time to empower LGBTIQ community against discrimination. They should be allowed to make their choices,” he added.
In a concurring judgement, Justice Nariman said homosexuality is “not a mental disorder or disease”.
He said the LGBTIQ community has an equal right to live with dignity and are entitled to equal protection of law. He directed the Centre to give wide publicity to this judgment to remove the stigma attached to homosexuality.
Justice Chandrachud said to deny the LGBTIQ community their right to sexual orientation is a denial of their citizenship and a violation of their privacy.
“They cannot be pushed into obscurity by an oppressive colonial legislation… Sexual minorities in India have lived in fear, hiding as second class citizens,” said Justice Chandrachud, adding “the state has no business to intrude on such matters”.
Justice Indu Malhotra said that history owes an apology to the LGBTIQ community for all that they have suffered on account of the ignorance of the majority about homosexuality.
“LGBTIQ people have a right to live unshackled from the shadow,” she said.
The Supreme Court verdict, which overruled its own earlier judgment, assumes significance as in the earlier round of litigation in 2013, the top court had reversed a Delhi High Court ruling decriminalising homosexuality.
The Delhi High Court bench, headed by then Chief Justice A.P. Shah, had in July 2009 legalised homosexual acts between consenting adults by overturning the 149-year-old law — finding it unconstitutional and a hurdle in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
In December 2013, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya in the Suresh Kumar Koushal and another vs Naz Foundation and others case, had set aside the high court’s judgment and said that it was for the legislature to look into desirability of deleting section 377 of IPC.
The matter was subsequently resurrected in July 2016, when a fresh petition was filed by members of the LGBTIQ community — dancer N.S. Johar, journalist Sunil Mehra, chef Ritu Dalmia, hotelier Aman Nath and business executive Ayesha Kapur — which was then marked to the Constitution Bench by a Division Bench.
The reference was made on the basis of submission that it was the first time that individuals directly affected by the provision were approaching the court.
Among the petitioners are a batch of current and former students of Indian Institutes of Technology. Claiming to represent more than 350 LGBTIQ alumni, students, staff and faculty from the IITs, the petitioners said that the existence of Section 377 had caused them “mental trauma and illnesses, such as clinical depression and anxiety and relegated some of them to second-class citizenship”. (IANS)