The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hanging in Supreme Court balance
Last lunge at mercy for Dhananjoy

New Delhi/Calcutta, Aug. 11: In a last-minute attempt to save Dhananjoy Chatterjee, his brother Bikash today moved the Supreme Court seeking to stay the hanging set for Saturday.

Admitting the petition, a three-judge bench of Justices . Santosh Hegde, S.B. Sinha and A.K. Mathur briefly heard the counsel for the petitioner, Colin Gonzalves, and directed that a bench of the Supreme Court hear the urgent application tomorrow.

The court later said a five-member full Constitution bench headed by the chief justice of India will hear the plea.

Dhananjoy has been convicted of raping and killing 14-year-old Hetal Parekh and the state government yesterday announced that the execution would be carried out at 4.30 am on August 14, the day Dhananjoy was born 41 years ago.

Bikash in his writ petition cited over 10 reasons for staying the hanging and converting the death sentence to life imprisonment. The three-judge bench said the petition would be listed for hearing tomorrow.

Gonzalves contended that the reason for rejection of the mercy petition by the President was not yet officially communicated to Dhananjoy’s family. “Nobody knows the reason,” the petition says.

It adds that even though the death penalty is given in the “rarest of rare cases”, Dhananjoy’s example has set another “rare” precedent in the history of capital punishment in the country: the sentence has not been carried out in the last 13 years.

The Bengal government said it is “fully prepared” to oppose the case in the court. Anticipating that the apex court would be moved again, last week itself a vakalatnama was sent to Tara Chand Sharma, standing counsel for Bengal in New Delhi, empowering him to oppose any petition.

Soon after the apex court admitted the petition, the state machinery got into the act of compiling and sending Sharma the details of the case. “We have already faxed a number of documents to him, and all other relevant documents will reach him by tomorrow morning,” a senior official of the state judicial department said.

“We will also provide the communication that we sent to Dhananjoy’s family, keeping them informed of all developments,” the official added.

After receiving the arguments made on Dhananjoy’s behalf in the Supreme Court, officials discussed the case with advocate-general Balai Ray. Legal luminaries in Calcutta, examining the case on behalf of the state, offered their opinions which have been sent to Sharma.

An official said the reports of the police officials who had investigated the case will also be sent to Delhi to reinforce the contention that circumstantial evidence itself is strong enough to warrant conviction.

Jaymalya Bagchi and Subroto Mookherjee, lawyers from Calcutta High Court defending Dhananjoy, left for Delhi to join Gonzalves. Their appeal to meet Dhananjoy in jail this morning was turned down.

“The fact that we were denied permission to meet him is against the law. We will also inform the Supreme Court about this,” Mookherjee said.

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