July 21: Yakub Memon, the lone man to be sentenced to death in the 1993 Bombay blasts, today lost the final appeal against his hanging scheduled for July 30 when the Supreme Court dismissed his curative petition.
The "black warrant" informing Memon of the date and time of his execution was received at Nagpur Central Jail on July 15.
A chartered accountant who will turn 53 on the morning he is to be hanged, Yakub is the younger brother of Tiger Memon, a key lieutenant of blast mastermind Dawood Ibrahim.
On the day the warrant was received, the windows of the first-floor apartment of Al Husseini building on Mahim's Dargah Road, where Yakub's wife Rahin lives with her parents and daughter, were shuttered. The watchman shooed away journalists.
Before the blasts on March 12, 1993, the entire Memon clan had lived in the building, occupying the spacious sixth and seventh floors. A key found in their apartment had led Rakesh Maria, a DCP then and Mumbai police commissioner now, to unravel the conspiracy behind the first serial blasts that shook the country.
The key had eventually fitted into a scooter parked in Dadar that was packed with RDX - used for the first time in India - but had failed to explode. It belonged to Tiger Memon.
The police search at the Memon home was prompted by the licence plate of a car, also packed with RDX, that did explode and was registered in the name of Rubeena - a bahu of the family.
But by the time the police had landed at Al Husseini - the building in whose garage, they later found, RDX was loaded into the vehicles - the Memons had escaped to Pakistan.
Yakub "returned" in 1994 with his family - security agencies claimed he was arrested while trying to quietly enter the country but he has consistently said he came back on his own and "surrendered".
In its verdict, the Supreme Court called Yakub "an archer" and "a driving force" of the conspiracy. He was found guilty of aiding, abetting and arranging finance for the terror attack that left 250 dead and more than 700 injured.
After the Tada court judge sentenced him to death in 2007, Yakub had famously exclaimed: "Oh my God, forgive this man, he knows not what he does!"
"Bhai (Tiger Memon) had told me 13 years ago that it won't be of any use trying to be (Mahatma) Gandhi and returning to Hindustan. It took me 13 years to realise it," a bitter Yakub had told the judge.
Then 45 years old, Yakub had told the court that he and his family had no inkling of the conspiracy and had travelled to Dubai on March 9, 1993, for a vacation at his brother Suleiman's house. He had turned emotional about his daughter who was due to be born two days after he "surrendered" in 1994. "I have not spent a single day with my daughter in her entire life," Yakub had told the judge.
The Supreme Court later dismissed his appeal against the death sentence, as well as a review petition against that ruling.
With Dawood and Tiger absconding, Yakub is the only man in the case to be sentenced to death so far. The trial of two prime accused, Mohammad Dossa and Abu Salem, is still on.
Prison sources in Nagpur Central Jail said after the warrant was received from Maharashtra's home department that Yakub now seems resigned to his fate.
"He had been very disturbed in the past, seeking to meet his family, protesting his innocence. But of late there has been an acceptance. He knows he cannot escape the sentence," a source said.
The most educated of the six Memon brothers, Yakub earned a post-graduate degree in English literature and another in political science from IGNOU while in jail. Two of his brothers, Yusuf and Essa, are also serving life sentences in the blasts case.
This evening, he made one last-ditch effort and filed a mercy petition before the governor. His lawyer said the previous plea was made by his brother Suleiman and today's was the first Yakub had made directly. The governor's office said they had not yet received the petition.
President Pranab Mukherjee had rejected his mercy petition in April last year.
A curative petition, filed after appeals and review petitions are dismissed, is the last remedy for any person seeking justice from the court. Not one individual has so far succeeded in a curative petition.
Memon, among other things, had challenged the proposed execution as unconstitutional because it was being carried out after keeping him in incarceration for over 20 years. The petition was dismissed by a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice H.L. Dattu.
Public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, who had fought the case in the Tada court, said: "It has been proved in the courts that Yakub was in charge of the entire logistics of the operation from arranging flight tickets for the 15 boys who went to Pakistan for training to funding the escape of their family. He also bought a motor vehicle, which was used for planting explosives. He was also convicted for illegal possession of arms and possessing explosives with intent to endanger lives."
Shaukat Parkar, a flower shop owner on the Dargah Road which leads to 14th century Pir Makhdoom Ali Mahimi Dargah says most people in the area who might have known them are dead or have moved on from the building. "Mahim also wants to move on from the Memons - they have given this area a bad name," he says.