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Age gives Bapi killers benefit of life

Calcutta, July 1: Bapi Sen’s killers have escaped the hangman’s noose because of their young age.

Judge Basudeb Majumdar today sentenced the five convicted to rigorous imprisonment for life, though he said the crime they committed was the “rarest of rare”.

The five police constables were yesterday convicted of beating to death traffic sergeant Bapi Sen when he went to the rescue of a woman they were teasing at the year-end of 2002.

Soma, Bapi Sen’s widow, said: “I’m glad that the judge has sentenced my husband’s killers to life imprisonment. I hope they die in prison.”

Describing their crime as “heinous”, the city sessions and civil court judge slapped a fine of Rs 10,000 on the convicts and an additional six months in jail if they fail to pay the amount. The five are Madhusudan Chakraborty, Sridam Bauri, Pijush Goswami, Mujibur Rehman and Shekhar Mitra.

The judge said “members of a disciplined force” are supposed to “protect the lives and liberty of the citizens at large”. “Unfortunately, they did something to the contrary. They took the life of a man who was a sergeant of Calcutta police…(while) he was doing his best to protect a female whose modesty was going to be betrayed.”

The judge said he had spared them the death sentence, though their crime “comes within the purview of the rarest of rare cases”, because of the “age of the convicts at this stage”.

“I am of the view that justice would be met if I restrain myself from imposing capital punishment on them,” the judge said. “In such circumstances, life imprisonment is just and proper.”

Although not unexpected, the sentence left the accused shattered and they slumped inside the convict box. Soon after the judge left and the crowd thinned, some of them broke down, holding the iron-net of the box.

For a few minutes, the five stood in silence and then called for their relatives. The defence lawyers, too, closed in, telling their clients of the new strategy they would adopt.

Defence lawyer Tapas Mukherjee said efforts will be made at the earliest to “prove their innocence” in the higher court. The lawyers are focusing on the first medical report prepared at the time of Bapi Sen’s admission to hospital on that night.

Written on the basis of what his friends accompanying him told the doctors, the report says the sergeant had consumed two pegs of alcohol. It also says he was beaten up by two persons.

The proceedings started early today. Around 10.55 am, the convicts were brought into the courtroom from the rear corridor amid unprecedented security. But, unlike yesterday, their defiant attitude was gone. There were neither red T-shirts, nor tilaks, nor any cry of protest.

As the court clock struck 11, the judge walked in and called the five for their personal statements. One by one, hands folded, they walked up and declared their innocence.

All five cited “personal grounds” for being let off: ailing parents, young children, helpless wives. But they all said they would accept whatever punishment the judge would give.

The judge then watched in silence as the five returned to the convict box. After a pause, he read out the punishment.

Bapi Sen’s two brothers — Joydeb and Anup — watched quietly as the judge read out the sentence.

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