Honour Killing, Death Penalty, Judiciary and Media.

The events leading to eventual and inevitable hanging of Yakub Memon were most dramatic and highly unusual to say the least. When Sheela Bhatt of +Rediff.Com published an earlier unpublished article of 2007 by B Raman, who secured the “informal custody” of Yakub Memon in Nepal and was in charge of Pakistan Desk at Research And Analysis Wing; it added substantive twist to the unseemly “patriotic din” created around YM’s death penalty.

‘The cooperation of Yakub with the investigating agencies after he was picked up informally in Kathmandu and his role in persuading some other members of the family to come out of Pakistan and surrender Constitute, in my view, a strong mitigating circumstance to be taken into consideration while considering whether the death penalty should be implemented,’ B Raman had written in August 2007.

Raman at that point felt that had the unsavoury role played by the intelligence agencies in deceiving the trial court and higher judiciary is bared, then the courts would take a dim view of such suppressing of material facts by the prosecution and would hold that the trial process stands vitiated. Raman believed in 2007 that “the Others might escape as a result of his article [Memon brothers and the Mumbai blasts]” and asked Bhatt to withhold it. Many have argued with considerable merit that YM’s culpability, i.e. that is his actual acts of commissions and omissions,  in the 1992-93 Mumbai bomb blasts did not warrant death penalty.
But someone has to pay for the acts of terror, and if one can’t get a Dawood Ibrahim or a Tiger Memon who master minded the blasts, then a Yakub Memon would do. This symbolises both the Bloodlust and Impotent Rage of the Indian State. What the judiciary has in effect achieved is yet another Honour Killing by The Indian State.
Main Stream Media [MSM], always more patriotic than the rest, started a shrill din clamouring for the rejection of curative as well as mercy petitions made on behalf of the convict. The spins given by different MSM outlets were different, but the message was unmistakably the same; Yakub Memon must hang. New Indian Express on 26th July  came out with a report, “72 Muslims Hanged in India against 1,342 Hindus and Others“. It profusely cited National law University’s Death Penalty Research Project [DPRP] in its compilation. The report impressed upon it’s readers that the process of taking life in India by the due process of law is blind to convict’s religion.

However, a new report by Death Penalty Research Project of the National Law University (NLU), Delhi shows that of the 1,414 prisoners in the available list of convicts hanged in post-Independence India, only 72 are Muslims—not even 5 per cent of the total executions… According the report, in Jammu and Kashmir, the playground of Islamist terror, not one Muslim has been hanged… In his own state [Maharashtra]—where there were 63 terror-related incidents this year alone, (around nine a month) and 139 in 2014 (around 12 a month)—56 were hanged for various offences. Of these, only four Muslim convicts—Abdul Rehman Imrankhan, Abhasjhan Wazirkhan, Munwvar Haun Shah, and Ajmal Amir Kasab—climbed the scaffold, just 7.14 per cent. This amounts to 13 criminals of other faiths for every Muslim“.

The emphasis in above quotes has been added to highlight the spin New Indian Express wished to impart to its story and how it egregiously slipped in it’s own phrases as the conclusions of the DPRP. Prima facie the whole figure work is patently false either to prove or disprove the premise that there is no Religious Bias in the judicial process of awarding death penalty. To have an objective assessment of this New Indian Express or anybody else would have to compile far more statistics than is available even with DPRP. At the minimum it would be religion [or caste, creed, economic status] wise data on: 
  • How many serious crimes cases, where maximum penalty of death is prescribed at judge’s discretion, were registered and tried?
  • Out of these in how many cases accused were convicted and of them how many were awarded the death penalty?
  • Out of the death row convicts how many actually were hanged?

When religion wise Ratios of the above categories are calculated and comparisons are made, then and only then the charge of “unbiased” or “biased” could be statistically made.
The spin was so blatantly constructed in bad-faith that DPRP director had to issue a full scale rebuttal. It merits quoting in full.

How to misread the data on Executions: A response from the Death Penalty Clinic.

Response to the Misleading Article in the NEW INDIAN EXPRESS on the Religious Profile of Executions in India
This statement is from the Death Penalty Research Project, National Law University, Delhi in response to the article that appeared in the New Indian Express titled ’72 Muslims Hanged in India against 1,342 Hindus and Others’, dated 26th July 2015. The article claims that it is based on the data of the Death Penalty Research Project.
We wish to state in no uncertain terms that the New Indian Express has grossly misread the data on the website of the Death Penalty Research Project and has misled its readers by making it seem as though the analysis has been provided by the Death Penalty Research Project.
We wish to make it abundantly clear that the New Indian Express did not contact us and neither have we interpreted the data on the number of executions in the manner in which the New Indian Express has or in any other manner. The data we have on the number of executions carried out since 1947 has no corresponding data on the socio-economic profile of such prisoners.
  1. Incorrect Figures
The New Indian Express claims to have taken the figures from our resources. The article in the New Indian Express says 72 Muslims and 1342 ‘Hindus and others’ have been executed, making it a total of 1414.
This is strange and curious because we have published and received the names of only 755 prisoners who were executed since independence. There is no explanation about the method by which the New Indian Express arrived at the figure of 1414 executed prisoners.
Also, the information we received from the Central Prisons has no information on the religion of the executed prisoners and neither have we provided that information in any manner.
  1. Analysis of Current Executions Data Not Possible: The reason for not doing any analysis of executions carried out is simply that it is not possible to do anything accurate, meaningful, and rigorous with the data provided by the Central Prisons across the country. However, since that is clearly not obvious to the New Indian Express, we thought it might be useful to make it explicit:
  1. Very large proportion of execution data unavailable: The data, as mentioned on every page of the PDF document published on our website, is not exhaustive. The Law Commission of India in 1967 had said in its 35th Report that India had seen 1410 executions between 1953-1963 (highlighted on p.2 of the PDF file – link at the bottom of this document). If the New Indian Express had added figures conveniently provided next to each State, it would have realised that we have names of 755 prisoners. 755 prisoners is only about 50% of the prisoners the Law Commission of India stated were executed by 1963.
1410 prisoners, according to the Law Commission of India were already executed by 1963, and in 2014, the Central Prisons are able to provide only 755 names! To project any analysis on the basis of this data is untenable, lacks any rigour and reeks of convenience.
  1. Other important data for such analysis unavailable: The data sent from the Central Prisons is only about executions carried out. However, there is no data that available on the religious profile of ALL prisoners sentenced to death. Not all prisoners sentenced to death are executed. In fact, only a very small proportion prisoners sentenced to death are eventually executed.
To make the argument that the New Indian Express is making it needs to show the proportion of executed prisoners from one religious group compared to the total number of death row prisoners from that religious group. Just absolute numbers on number of executions make no sense in this context without the total number of death row prisoners from that group.
In essence, were the 1342 ‘Hindus and Others’, as the New Indian Express conveniently calls them, executed from amongst 1500 such death row prisoners? Or were they from 5000 or were they from 20,000? The New Indian Express does not tell us whether 72 Muslims executed were from a total of 80, or 100 or 1000 Muslim death row prisoners overall since independence! Surely, if 72 Muslims prisoners were executed from a total of 100 Muslim death row prisoners and 1342 ‘Hindus and Others’ were executed from amongst 20,000  prisoners, that would turn this spin from the New Indian Express on its head!
The New Indian Express cannot provide that extremely important information because it does not have that data and neither does anyone else. And without that data, the communal spin they have given to the execution data is just shoddy, unscientific and dangerous.
We do hope that the New Indian Express will recognise the serious and acute flaws in the article and will not hesitate to withdraw it with immediate effect.
Dr. Anup Surendranath
Director, Death Penalty Research Project
National Law University, Delhi
The author of this rebuttal, Dr. Anup Surendranath, who was until very recently on deputation to Supreme Court as deputy registrar and chose to resign from that post soon after YM was executed, is now in the midst of a controversy. Not in his letter of resignation, but on social media sites, Dr. Anup Surendranath reportedly wrote,

It would be silly and naive to see the events of the last 24 hours at the Supreme Court as some triumph of the rule of law… The two orders at 4 pm on 29th July and 5 am on 30th July (and the reasoning adopted therein) are instances of judicial abdication that must count amongst the darkest hours for the Supreme Court of India… I have been contemplating this for a while now for a variety of reasons, but what was played out this week at the Supreme Court was the proverbial final nail – I have resigned from my post at the Supreme Court to focus on death penalty work at the University.

Initially the Supreme Court reacted quite stoically by statingThe court issued an official statement in which it clarified that Dr Anup Surendranath did not resign over Yakub Memon’s execution. The court in its statement said, “He resigned on his own request as he wanted to pursue his research.” “Dr Surendranath has returned to teaching at the National Law University in Delhi. He led the educational institution’s attempt to prevent the hanging of Memon,” added the court“. But later SC seems to have bristled at the affront deputy registrar’s observations caused to its majesty and seems to have decided to act mercifully not under the draconian “Contempt of Court” remedy but under the service rules of deputation and employment at SC: “the authorities have taken strong note of the fact that Surendranath got involved in Yakub’s case without permission though regulations bar him from contesting a case in his individual capacity, particularly when it did not relate to his service conditions. Surendranath was being paid from the consolidated fund of the Supreme Court as its official and he was obligated to act in compliance with its norms, sources told The Indian Express. The court registry has decided to write to his parent institution, the NLU, pointing at Surendranath’s “impropriety” and for taking appropriate action against him“. If it is not expedient to get him by “HOOK” then let it be by “CROOK” seems to be the name of the game.
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