Countdown begins for Dhananjoy's execution

Countdown begins for Dhananjoy's execution
Kolkata, Aug 13 (PTI) With the rejection of a PIL by the Calcuta High Court today the countdown has begun for the execution of rape and murder convict Dhananjoy Chatterjee at the high-security Alipur Central Jail in the early hours of tomorrow.

The 42-year old convict, who has been lodged in the condemned cell for the past few months, would be finally facing the gallows after managing to stave off the hangman's noose for 13 years since he was first handed out the death sentence by a Sessions Court.

Although a five-member Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice R C Lohati had already sealed Chatterjee's fate yesterday by dismissing his brother's petition challenging the Presidential order rejecting his mercy plea, the dismissal of the PIL, possibly the last legal move on the convict's behalf, left no room for any doubt.

"All administrative measures are being taken. The arrangements will be as per the Jail Code," state Home Secretary Amit Kiran Deb said after holding a detailed meeting for tomorrow's arrangements.

He also said that tight security arrangements have been made around the jail premises as well as around Chatterjee's family home in Bankura district.

These arrangements have been made in view of the hype created over the hanging which has already triggerred a nationwide debate over the continuation of capital punishment in the country.

The family was being guarded because they had earlier threatened to commit mass suicide if Chatterjee was hanged.

The home secretary responding to a query on the mental and physical condition of the convict said that he was "normal and physically stable." According to jail sources Dhananjoy was being constantly monitored by doctors.

Chatterjee had been sentenced to death for the rape and murder of 14-year-old schoolgirl, Hetal Parekh, at her home in 1990.

The hangman, Nata Mullick, has already been taken to the jail last evening to make preparations for the hanging at 4:30 AM tomorrow.

Mullick, who had been kept under tight security at his south Kolkata residence for the last one week, was taken by the jail staff last evening while his two sons, Tarak and Mahadeb, who would be helping their father in carrying out the execution, would be going to the jail by this evening.

Interestingly Mullick, who has been official hangman of the state for many decades, finally agreed to carry out the hanging only if his demand for a government job for his grandson was acceded to by the state government.

On the other hand the family members of Dhananjoy at their home in Kaludihi village in Bankura district have resigned to the fate confining themselves to isolation and refusing to speak to anybody.

The family also refused to accept the official communication about the rejection of mercy plea by the President which was to be handed over to Chatterjee's wife, Purnima.

The district authorities had to paste the communciation at the gate of her house, the district SP Anil Kumar said.

The family has also refused to either attend the hanging or claim the body of Chatterjee.

Chatterjee, a liftman-cum-security gurad at a housing complex, had been sentenced to death on August 12, 1991 by the Alipore Sessions Judge for raping and murdering schoolgirl Hetal Parekh in March 1990.

This was the beginning of a long and meandering journey for the convict who filed petitions after petitions either before the High Court, Supreme Court, Governor or the President seeking a chance to live by pleading commutation of the capital punishment to life imprisonment.

But nothing worked.

At every level, the sessions court, High Court and finally the Supreme Court, the crime by Chatterjee was described as the "rarest of rare case warranting award of capital punishment." Chatterjee's lawyers, however, used the loopholes in the legal system to delay his execution for nine years even after his first mercy plea was rejected by the then President S D Sharma in 1994.

Following the revival of the case in November last year the condemned prisoner once again embarked on a series of clemency pleas both by him as well as his wife first before the Governor of West Bengal and then before the President.

The last of the clemency petitions was rejected by the Governor on June two, 2004 prompting the convict to plead mercy before the President, who also rejected it on August four. This made the jail Authorities at Alipore fix August 14 as the date of hanging.

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