Friday, March 03, 2017

Dhananjay Chatterjee's Execution

Criminal Justice

Dhananjay Chatterjee was a guard in a building where a teen-aged girl named Hetal Parekh was found dead in March 1990. He was convicted of having raped and killed her and was hanged on his 39th birthday, August 14, 2004, protesting his innocence until the end. His execution followed a shrill campaign waged by the wife of the then West Bengal chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. Chatterjee’s appeals were rejected by the then president APJ Abdul Kalam on the advice of arguably India’s worst home minister, Shivraj Patil, going by historian Ramachandra Guha’s estimation. In a similar situation, his predecessor in Rashtrapati Bhavan, KR Narayanan, had applied his mind wonderfully, as emerges from an anecdote narrated by his secretary, Gopalkrishna Gandhi. Delivering the People’s Union of Civil Liberties’ 35th JP Memorial Lecture in Bangalore on March 23 in 2015 earlier this year, Gandhi described how he had received a call late at night from Chennai regarding the case of a man on death row in Tamil Nadu and how the president had unhesitatingly decided on commuting his sentence. Gandhi went on to speak of the independent and cerebral outlook that India’s sole Dalit president brought to his job. As for Dhananjay Chatterjee’s execution, the People’s Union for Democratic Rights, a four-decades-old New Delhi-based volunteer outfit, put out a statement on July 21, 2015 based on an analysis by two scholars from the Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata, arguing that the guard was framed.
The analysis by Debashish Sengupta and Prabal Chaudhury, timed to coincide with the Law Commission’s Public Hearing on the death penalty in New Delhi on Saturday, July 11, described what they believe was a botched investigation. They also highlighted inconsistencies in the evidence and pointed to fictitious claims, all aimed, they say, to frame Chatterjee. The two scholars noted that a police witness in court denied having seen Chatterjee at the victim’s flat. The police seizure list was signed by someone who supplied tea to the police and did not turn up in court. The antecedents of some items presented as incriminating evidence, such as a necklace and a watch, were never checked. The trial court failed to question why no murder weapon was recovered and why there was no blood on Chatterjee’s clothes even though there were 21 stab wounds on the victim’s body. While the crime was said to have been committed in a short window between 5:20 pm and 5:50 pm, when Hetal Parekh’s mother was out of the flat, there was a three-hour delay before the police were called – ample time for tampering with the evidence. The Parekh family members’ statements were inconsistent, and the family soon wrapped up its thriving jewellery business and left Kolkata, raising the possibility of an honour killing, the scholars contend. A letter written by the victim’s father alleging that Chatterjee used to harass his daughter, which was used by the police to establish a motive, seems to have been written after the crime, the scholars say. Chatterjee had spent 14 years in jail before he was hanged. He was thus punished twice for a crime he likely did not commit, going by the Kolkata scholars’ analysis, for the mere fault of being too poor to engage a competent lawyer.

Dhananjay admits to murder, but not rape

Dhananjay Chatterjee's diary should make interesting reading. For one, it is an attempt to get under the skin of crime by a criminal waiting to be hanged. And, two, it insists that he did not rape Hetal Parekh after she came back home from a history examination. Murder, yes, but rape, no way. This January, when the government had pulled itself up to settle the case once and for all, that a jail official asked him to maintain a diary. A pencil and some note-pads were given to him but Chatterjee waited for June to really immerse himself in the diarist's job.
The product might just surprise everyone, feels prisons officials who are keeping a close tab on Chatterjee. The diary had the usual autobiographical inputs but, somewhere down the line, changed its tone. Somebody told Dhananjoy that he must analyse the reasons behind the gory murders taking place daily. "Why should you limit yourself to your life?" the officials supposedly suggested.
Chatterjee agreed. He was always an avid reader of newspapers and kept a watch on the the things around him. "This was how it started," a prisons department official added. Officials still do not know Chatterjee's analysis of crime and criminals but say that Dhananjay is insisting, even in his "autobiographical" diary, that he did not rape Hetal Parekh.
Little that they have been allowed into some of the pages, they believe that Chatterjee is only admitting to the murder. Chatterjee has also turned "religious" with a vengeance, say officials. Always "apparently god-fearing", he is now an avid reader of the Gita, a copy of which was given to him as the country was debating whether he should be hanged for what he did 14 years ago.

 President Kalam rejects Dhananjay's mercy petition

August 04, 2004 17:15 IST
President A P J Abdul Kalam on Wednesday rejected the mercy petition of Dhananjoy Chatterjee.The President decided to reject the petition after he had discussions with legal experts, including Attorney General Milon Banerji. A West Bengal trial court had sentenced him to death, which was confirmed by the high court and the Supreme Court, for raping and murdering 14-year-old school girl Hetal Parekh in 1990. Sources in Rashtrapati Bhawan told that the President signed the rejection of the mercy petition late last night. The petition was moved by Dhananjay's wife and brother two and a half months ago. The mercy petition was sent by the home ministry for the President's consideration about a month back. This was Dhananjoy's second mercy petition before the President. His first one was rejected on June 23, 1994. The execution order was confirmed by a division bench of the Calcutta high court comprising Justice M K Mukherjee and Justice J N Hore on August 7, 1992. The convict moved the Supreme Court and his appeal was dismissed by a division bench comprising Justice A S Anand and Justice N P Singh on January 11, 1994. His review petition before the apex court was also rejected on January 20, 1994. He then moved a mercy petition before the West Bengal Governor on February 2, 1994, which was rejected on February 16 the same year.
Following this, he had moved a mercy petition before the President, on February 17, 1994, which was rejected on June 23 the same year. Since his death sentence in 1992 by the sessions court for the gruesome act, Dhananjoy has successfully used loopholes in the legal procedures to escape the gallows for over a decade. Chatterjee had once before escaped the noose by a whisker in 1994, when he got a stay on his execution from the Calcutta high court and the Supreme Court.
He had moved the high court a day before February 25, 1994, the date fixed for his execution and obtained a stay from the court on the ground that he had moved a mercy petition before the President on February 17. On the same day (February 24) his wife Purnima had moved the apex court seeking a stay on execution on the ground that she be allowed time to move a mercy petition before the President.  The apex court granted the stay for a week till March 4 and a communique was received by the West Bengal Judicial Department the same evening about the stay, just hours before the scheduled execution at 4.30 a.m the next morning. He managed two more extensions on the stay by the high court and then an unlimited stay till disposal of his petition by the President, suppressing the fact that his wife had also obtained a stay on his execution from the apex court giving the same reason, public prosecutor for state before the high court, Kaji Safiullah.
While the mercy petition was rejected by the President on June 23, 1994, the state government did not take any step to vacate the stay by the high court, till it came to the notice of a Judicial Department officer in October 2003.
Once the high court was informed of the situation by the judicial department, the then Chief Justice A K Mathur assigned the matter to Justice D P Sengupta and the stay was vacated in November last.
An appeal against this order by Dhananjoy was also rejected by a division bench of the High Court a month later.
Dhananjoy had been convicted on three counts-- Section 302 (murder) IPC for which the execution order was given, Section 376 (rape) IPC for which he was sentenced to life imprisonment and Section 380 (theft inside house) IPC, for  which he was sentenced to five years' imprisonment.
Dhananjoy was sentenced to death on August 12, 1991, by the Second Additional Session Judge, Alipur, R N Kali.
The execution order was confirmed by a division bench of the Calcutta high court comprising Justice M K Mukherjee and Justice J N Hore on August 7, 1992.
The convict moved the Supreme Court and his appeal was dismissed by a division bench comprising Justice A S Anand  and Justice N P Singh on January 11, 1994.
His review petition before the apex court was also rejected on January 20, 1994.
He then moved a mercy petition before the West Bengal Governor on February two, 1994, which was rejected on February 16 the same year.
Following this, he had moved a mercy petition before the President, on February 17, 1994, which was rejected on June 23 the same year.
Meanwhile, the West Bengal government said it was yet to receive any formal communication from the Union law ministry about initiating the process of execution of Dhananjay Chatterjee.
"We have heard about it, but no formal communication has been received from the Centre yet," official sources said in Kolkata.
Neither the Chief Secretary nor the Home Secretary of the state were available for comment. The office of the State Advocate General said it would take some time for the secretariat of the AG to receive a formal communication in this regard.
With inputs from Press Trust of India
WITH President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam rejecting the mercy petition, the noose will tighten around the neck of Dhananjoy Chatterjee, who has been awaiting the execution of the death penalty for the rape and murder of 14-year-old Hetal Parekh on March 15, 1990. This was the second mercy petition of the convict to the President. He has been lodged in the Alipore Central jail in Kolkata for 14 years. The first petition was rejected in 1994.
The convict's family members are not willing to give up. Even as the West Bengal government set in motion the formalities to execute the rapist-killer after receiving a formal communication from the Union Home Ministry, his brother is said to have sought a copy of the letter issued by the President rejecting clemency in order to take the next legal course under Article 32 of the Constitution. (Article 32 confers the right to move the Supreme Court for enforcement of fundamental rights.) Dhananjoy Chatterjee, who worked as a lift operator in the building where Hetal Parekh and her family lived, raped and killed the girl when she returned to an empty flat from school. The Alipore Sessions Court awarded Dhananjoy Chatterjee life imprisonment for rape and a death sentence for murder. The sentence was upheld both by the High Court and the Supreme Court, and the Governor of West Bengal rejected the plea for mercy filed by the convict's relatives. In February 1994, Dhananjoy obtained an interim stay from the High Court. More than nine years later, in September 2003, his petition for commutation of his sentence owing to the delay in its execution was quashed by the High Court, and Dhananjoy Chatterjee appealed to the Supreme Court. In February the Supreme Court referred his mercy petition to the Governor for reconsideration. The Governor once again rejected the petition and Dhananjoy was scheduled to be hanged to death at 4-30 a.m. on June 25.
But Dhananjoy's life was once again prolonged when a communique from the Union Home Ministry asked the State government to postpone the hanging until President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam gave his opinion on a mercy petition filed by Dhananjoy Chatterjee's family and several social organisations. When the President's office sought the State government's views on the matter, the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front government made it clear that it fully supported the death sentence. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said: "The government and I are in favour of the death sentence in this particular case. The Centre has been informed of this. The message should go loud and clear to the perpetrators of such crime."
Following Governor Viren J. Shah's rejection of his clemency petition, Dhananjoy Chatterjee petitioned the Supreme Court, which refused to entertain the petition as the matter was being examined by the President under Article 72 of the Constitution. Dhananjoy's case further weakened when on July 2 the Home Ministry recommended his execution to the President.
With the hangman's noose now looming large over Dhananjoy, the debate that is raging is not whether he deserves to be hanged but whether capital punishment is necessary in today's' society.
Those who knew Hetal feel that Dhananjoy deserves nothing less than the death penalty. Gillian Rosemary D'Costa Hart, principal of Welland Gouldsmith School, where Hetal studied, said, "Hetal was one of our brightest students. A lovely girl who met a very ghastly end. If Dhananjoy is hanged the pain won't disappear, but there would be some kind of justice." On the other hand, Dhananjoy's relatives and friends from his village in Bankura district have continuously appealed to the Governor and the courts for clemency. His family members, including his wife and his aged, ailing parents, sat in dharna in front of the Press Club in Kolkata, and threatened to commit suicide if Dhananjoy was hanged.
Kolkata is deeply divided over the issue. While numerous human rights organisations and non-governmental organisations have been protesting against the death sentence and have been petitioning the Governor and the President for commutation of the sentence, there is an equal number of outraged citizens who feel that the rapist-killer deserves to be hanged.
Film director Mrinal Sen told Frontline: "I have always been against capital punishment. The death penalty is a cruel and brutal practice. I am not saying this in defence of Dhananjoy Chatterjee. I have nothing but contempt for that man. But I am against any kind of brutality. Let him be punished for the rest of his life for what he has done. I feel extremely sad for parents, relatives and friends of the girl he killed. But brutality is not an answer to brutality."
Writer and social activist Mahasweta Devi said: "You cannot bring down the crime rate by awarding capital punishment." She feels that Dhananjoy should be given an opportunity to reform himself. But Meera Bhattacharjee, the Chief Minister's wife, feels that no mercy should be shown to Dhananjoy. Speaking at a debate on the issue, she made an emotional plea: "I have come here as a woman and the mother of a daughter. I know what the parents of Hetal Parekh have been going through for the past 14 years." Teary-eyed, she recounted with graphic details how the girl was mercilessly battered and raped and finally strangled with the rope of a swing that broke her voice box. "Can you still have thoughts of forgiving him?" she asked the gathering.
Although CPI(M) State secretary Anil Biswas is personally against the death sentence, he said, "At the same time we should not lose sight of the enormity and the gravity of Dhananjoy's crime."
Life imprisonment is all Dhananjoy wanted. He reportedly told the sentry guarding him the night before he was supposed to be hanged on June 25, "Look, my palm has no line of death, just a line of punishment."
According to various psychiatrists in Kolkata, Dhananjoy's behaviour and unruffled countenance as seen during the recent trial is that of an inveterate psychopath.
Consultant neuropsychiatrist Dr. Shiladitya Ray of Belle Vue clinic and Ruby General Hospital said: "I would expect any normal person to be a wreck by now. But his appearance and body language show that he is unrepentant and just doesn't care. For normal people such a situation brings about severe depression, absolute insomnia and food refusal, and psychomotor retardation. He has hardly shown any of these symptoms." According to him, for a "characterologic reformation" a stable baseline is a precondition. "History and precedence has shown that such people cannot be reformed," he said.
The fact that Dhananjoy's case had been scrutinised at all levels of the judiciary and went through the procedure for pardon only shows that it is in fact one of the rarest of rare cases in which capital punishment has been awarded.
A man convicted of raping and killing a schoolgirl 14 years ago has been executed in India.
Dhananjoy Chatterjee, 39, was hanged at dawn at the Alipore Central Jail in Calcutta where he had spent the last 13 years in solitary confinement.
Chatterjee was convicted for the 1990 rape and murder of 16-year-old Hetal Parekh, who lived in the building where he worked as a security guard.
“Dhananjoy Chatterjee was hanged at 0430 am,” Inspector General of Prisons Joydeb Chakraborty told reporters. Chatterjee’s family did not collect his body for cremation
Dhananjoy Chatterjee, the rapist and killer of 14-year-old schoolgirl Hetal Parekh, was hanged to death today at Alipore Central Jail sharp at 4-30 in the morning, ending a prolonged chapter of legal battle over his crime and punishment, his life and death. It also ended the continuing hopes, anxieties and agonies of Dhananjoy’s parents, wife and other relatives at their remote Kuldihi village home in Bankura, about 200 km from here.
Dhananjoy was subsequently cremated at the Keoratala burning ghat in Kalighat, south Kolkata under heavy police escort. None of his family members was present either at the Alipore jail or the Keoratala burning ghat.

Dhananjoy’s last wishes of donating his eyes and kidneys for the cause of humanity, however, could not be fulfilled as “no objection” to this act, had not been obtained at the last moment from his family, the IG (Prison), Mr Jaidev Chakraborty regretted. He said Dhananjoy was perfectly in good spirits and there was no resistance from his side when he had been brought to the gallows and put on the deck for hanging. He kept silent all through as if he had been reconciled with the situation. However, at the penultimate moment, he became a bit philosophical and was heard saying, “Oh God, let there be good to all,’’ the IG said describing Dhananjoy’s last moments.
Dhananjoy had a sound sleep last night after he had been administered a heavy dose of sleeping injection. He had his supper with roti, fish curry and vegetables. At noon during lunch he had been served with rice, fish, fried vegetables and dahi as desired by him. Throughout the day till late evening, Dhananjoy listened to Anup Jalota’s bhajans and Manna Dey’s songs on a tape-recorder which the jail authorities had arranged for him as he wished. But most of the time, he maintained a deep silence. He wanted to write something to his parents and wife on the postcards supplied to him, but he could not complete his writing. The hangman, Nata Mallick, declared soon after the hanging that it was his last act as hangman. Eightyfour-year-old Mallick, who had so far acted as hangman in 25 cases since Independence, will now start a new livelihood by selling puja items on the streets near a Kali temple.
Dhananjoy did not resist at the time of being hanged, but some human rights organisations, including the APDR, brought out a protest march from South Kolkata to Alipore Central Jail last night, demanding the suspension of his death penalty. On the other hand, teachers and students of Well & Goldsmith School, of which Hetal was a student, today held a prayer meeting inside the school campus in the memory of Hetal as well as Dhananjoy. At the remote village home in Bankura, Dhananjoy’s parents and other family members spent silent hours, refusing to meet and talk to outsiders.


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