The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the execution of Yakub Razzak Memon, convicted of being behind the 1993 Mumbai serial bombings that killed 257 people and injured more than 700.
A vacation bench of judges JS Khehar and C Nagappan issued notice to the Centre and the Maharashtra government on the plea of Memon, challenging the Apex court's rules by which the review of a death sentence can be decided by circulation among the judges.
Last week, President Pranab Mukherjee rejected Memon's mercy plea on the recommendations of the Maharashtra government and the Union home ministry.
Memon's lawyer argued that he had been lodged in jail for the past 20 years and death would be a "harsher punishment" than the 14-year jail term awarded in the case of life imprisonment.
He pointed out that in a similar plea by a convict in the 2000 Red Fort shootout case, the top court had stayed his execution and referred the matter to a Constitution Bench.
Seeking that the Bench declare the existing rule on deciding the review plea in the judges chamber as unconstitutional, the petition said, "order of direction under Article 32 of the Constitution of India declaring that order XL rule 3 of the Supreme Court rules, 1966 as unconstitutional and violative of Articles 14, 21, 32 and 137 of the Constitution of India insofar as it relates to disposal of review petitions by circulation without oral arguments without making any exception for death sentence cases, which by judicial definition are treated as rarest of rare cases."
The court then tagged the petition to be heard along with the plea of the Red Fort attack case convict.
Memon, a chartered accountant and brother of fugitive terror mastermind Tiger Memon, was sentenced to death by a Special Court under TADA in 2007 for criminal conspiracy and arranging finances and managing its disbursement through the co-accused in the serial blasts.
In March 2013, the Supreme Court upheld the Mumbai TADA court's verdict saying, "It is not a hyperbole to state that he was one of the driving spirits behind the plan."
In October 2013, Memon applied for presidential pardon, following which the home ministry sought a report from the state government.
Memon was arrested at Kathmandu airport in 1994. He was described by the TADA court as the mastermind who played a key role in the conspiracy, thus "warranting death penalty".
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which probed the serial blasts, alleged that the conspiracy was hatched by Dawood Ibrahim and others who are absconding, among them Tiger Memon. Tiger Memon is believed to be hiding in Pakistan.