Calcutta, July 1: The judge delivered what she wanted but the mother in Tara Choudhury could not hold back her tears. As she sat weeping in the courtroom last Wednesday, the verdict was pronounced: Paramanil Choudhury, son of 75-year-old Tara Choudhury, is dead.
Tara’s heart-wrenching story began three years ago when she stunned a packed courtroom by asking the judge to declare her son dead. Paramanil, her son, had been missing for 12 years and she needed his dues from his employers to feed his two children.
The 40-year-old, an employee of a jute mill in Noapara, on the northern fringes of the city, had mysteriously disappeared in 1988 near his residence. His mother, then 60, had lodged a missing diary. “Please try to locate my son. His two minor children are without parents,” she pleaded with police.
The toddlers, Bijoy and Madhu, had already lost their mother.
For 12 years, Tara waited for her son to return. She spent all her savings in raising the kids, but there was no news of her son. Even the police were clueless.
Alone and desperate, Tara approached her son’s employers for some retirement or death benefits so that she could at least save her grandchildren from starvation. But she was told there was no evidence that her son was dead.
The old woman finally received a lifeline when a neighbour suggested that she go to court and request the judge to declare her son dead as the law says that anyone “untraced or unheard of for seven continuous years can be presumed dead”.
When Tara reached the chamber of lawyer Arup Dasgupta with a request to take up the case, he was stunned. “I knew the rules, but the fact that a mother who loved her son very much wanted him to be declared dead was a bit of a shock to me,” he says. But he took up the case realising the financial straits she was in.
A few days after her neighbour’s suggestion, Tara accompanied Dasgupta and two associate lawyers, Shyamal Chattopadhyay and Mitali Dasgupta, to file a petition at the Barrackpore court. The petition requested the judge to save the family by declaring her son dead as nothing had been heard about him for several years. The case soon became a talking point and other lawyers would flock to the court of Judge D.. Prasad to hear the proceedings.
“Tara was very firm in her statements. She boldly said in the dock that her son was dead and the court should also presume him to be dead since there was no news whatsoever of his whereabouts for the last 15 years. In private, she used to be in tears while narrating tales about her son’s antics when he was young and how she loved him,” recalls Dasgupta.
Last Wednesday, Judge Prasad declared that since Paramanil has been “unheard (of) for seven continuous years”, Tara’s request had been granted.
The old woman has now contacted her son’s employers with a request for the death benefits. “She is waiting for the official court order in writing,” Dasgupta says.