Aug. 4: Ten days before his 41st birthday, Dhananjoy Chatterjee, convicted of raping and murdering teenager Hetal Parekh, heard on the radio in his condemned cell at Alipore Central Jail this afternoon that the President had turned down his clemency plea.
Late last evening, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam rejected the petition a month and a week after it went to him. The Union home ministry made the announcement this morning.
A senior ministry official said: “The decision would be processed in the ministry and formally communicated to the West Bengal government in due course.”
This is the second time Dhananjoy’s mercy plea is being turned down by a President, coming 13 years after a trial court at Alipore sentenced him to death by hanging in August 1991.
Hetal’s sister-in-law Archana Parekh said from the family’s home in Mumbai: “All I can say is that we have been waiting for this for long.” The Parekhs moved from Calcutta soon after the incident.
In December 1989, 14-year-old Hetal was raped by Dhananjoy and murdered in the Parekh family’s apartment in south Calcutta after the Class VIII student returned from school. Dhananjoy, the caretaker and lift operator of the building, fled but was caught on March 20, 1990, from a farm in Bankura district.
Speaking from Bankura today, Dhananjoy’s father Banshidhar Chatterjee insisted his son was “no killer” and that the rest of the family cannot survive if he is hanged. “We will all perish, in the same way as our son, if he is hanged.”.
The family has not given up yet. With the backing of several non-government organisations, a battery of about 20 lawyers will move the Supreme Court urging it to appoint a medical team to assess the killer’s mental condition. The legal team will seek to establish that he is mentally ill and, therefore, cannot be hanged.
Asked about the next course of action, Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said: “I have heard about the President’s decision through media reports, but I cannot comment on the basis of this.”
Sources in the government said that as soon as the official communication is received from Delhi, the process of carrying out the execution would start. The state judicial department will move court seeking a fresh date in three weeks for hanging Dhananjoy.
On June 24, Rashtrapati Bhavan had stalled the death sentence hours before Dhananjoy was to be hanged after the President decided to consider a plea for clemency filed by Purnima Chatterjee, his wife.
The President, who promised in mid-July that “right justice would be done”, consulted attorney-general Milon Banerjee, but officials said Kalam had to go by the recommendation of the home ministry which advised him against showing any compassion towards Dhananjoy.
Home ministry officials had said the gruesome crime that left 14 injury marks on Hetal’s body had made it easier for them to come to a decision.