The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hangman headache for Rabri

Patna, Sept. 12: The Rabri Devi government finds it has no one to implement death sentences imposed by the Supreme Court on five convicts recently. Like the Orissa government a month ago, the Rabri regime is finding it hard to locate hangmen.

The search for an executioner began when the apex court rejected the appeal of five Bhagalpur jail convicts on death row. Authorities found themselves in a spot as the jail’s hangman died recently and his family did not want to take up his profession.

The last execution in Bihar was carried out in 2000 in the same jail. The convict who was executed had killed two Chinese boys. “We had hired a man at that time from Babupur village in Bhagalpur. He used to traditionally perform the role of an executioner. But he died a year ago,” said a senior jail officer in Bhagalpur.

The new generation of hangmen wants a “permanent government job” rather than be hired for a day at a time, as at present. As a result, the government may find it difficult to hire a man for the job.

“We still hope and pray that these five get a reprieve from the President. But there are 30 other convicts on death row in the jail. We cannot but be prepared with one hangman, for with confirmation of death sentence by the Supreme Court comes a deadline for execution of the death warrant,” said state jail minister Baswant Bhagat.

Orissa faced a similar problem last month when the apex court confirmed the death sentence on Dayanidhi Bishnoi for killing a couple and their three-year-old daughter in 1998. But for Bihar, the hunt for a hangman has acquired greater urgency because of the number of convicts on death row.

Kuer Paswan, Krishna Mochi, Nandelal Mochi, Dharmendra Singh and Durgavati are the convicts awaiting the gallows in Bihar. All were involved in multiple murders and belong to the backward castes which Laloo Prasad Yadav has been working to empower.

The first four convicts hail from Gaya district and were handed death terms in 1992 by a Gaya court. Their sentences were confirmed by the Supreme Court in 2001 and the convicts were shifted from the Gaya central jail to the high-security Bhagalpur jail.

Durgavati, 45, a resident of Bhabua’s Tirojpur village, was involved in a multiple murder and handed death sentence in 1992. Patna High Court and the Supreme Court confirmed the sentence four years later. Ever since, Durgavati has been awaiting the gallows in her solitary cell, not knowing how to file a mercy petition before the President. “Recently, we have provided her legal assistance,” Bhagat said.

There are 30 others waiting for the Supreme Court to decide on their appeals. Chief among them is Mahendra Yadav, who killed two fellow villagers of the same caste. This had led to violence in Koili-Khutaha village in which 22 people were killed.

“In a society where violence is so widespread and endemic… death sentence would be the only deterrent weapon,” R.K. Ram, a former district judge in Samastipur, said.

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