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Guilty: 8 of murder, 4 of hiding proof
Doc family’s faith answered

A Howrah court on Monday held eight people, including a former CPM leader and a lady doctor, guilty of the murder of gynaecologist Sushil Pal 10 years ago. Four others were convicted of trying to wipe out evidence.

As the district and sessions judge read out the verdict, Pal’s younger daughter Sreeja, 17, broke down, while her elder sibling, 19-year-old medical student Shreya, appeared to choke back the tears. Mother Kanika clasped Sreeja’s hands, her eyes moist and face mirroring a thousand thoughts.

The quantum of punishment will be pronounced on Tuesday. The minimum sentence will be a life term for those convicted of murder. For the rest, it is likely to be a jail term of three to seven years.

“I have come to a conclusion that the prosecution has been able to establish the charges against all the accused beyond doubt and I hold you guilty of the offences that you have been charged with. Those who are on bail be taken into custody and all the accused be produced (in court) on April 22 for the sentencing,” district and sessions judge Tanmoy Gupta said.

Doctor Piyali Das Mondal, whose baby gynaecologist Pal had allegedly refused to abort prior to his murder, cried out that she was innocent even as the judge spoke. Some relatives held her close.

Aami loktake konodin chokhe dekhini (I had never seen that man),” she kept repeating even after the judge had left the courtroom.

Piyali, who had been out on bail, was taken into custody after a while.

Biswajyoti Basu, the expelled CPM zonal committee member convicted of plotting the murder, sat head bowed for almost an hour until the police took him back to Howrah jail.

Five of the accused, including Biswajyoti, had been in judicial custody throughout the investigation and trial. Seven were out on bail. The 13th accused, Krishnendu Sadhukhan, committed suicide in 2008 when out on bail.

“We had faith in the judicial system. It’s been a long wait but we are relieved that justice has been delivered,” Pal’s wife Kanika said.

The gynaecologist’s mud-caked body had been fished out of a canal in Sankrail, Howrah, on July 3, 2004, a day after he left his Bright Street home for the state-run Walsh Hospital in Serampore, which he had joined three months before.

According to the CID, the 47-year-old had been allegedly summoned to a nursing home run by Biswajyoti on July 2 for an abortion on Piyali, who worked there.

Among those held guilty of the murder are an employee of the nursing home and a drug store owner. Three of the four convicted of destroying evidence are also employees of the nursing home.

Police sources said the conviction was based on circumstantial evidence, which included a confessional statement by one of the arrested nursing home employees.

Special public prosecutor Sandip Kumar Bhattacharya said Biswanath Kangshabanik had stated before the magistrate that when Pal came to the nursing home on July 2, 2004, owner Biswajyoti personally received him and escorted him to the operating theatre. “He said Piyali Das was also there and then there was a sudden uproar and then everything was silent. (Another employee) Rajiv Nath and Biswanath Kangshabanik went up and saw Pal’s body being put on a trolley. Biswajyoti Basu had asked Kangshabanik to get him a white bed sheet,” Bhattacharya recounted.

In the decade-long legal battle, Monday was the first instance of Pal’s daughters accompanying their mother to court. “Sitting in court today, I was reminded of that moment when my father left home the last time. Memories rushed back,” Shreya said.

“I also realised today what Ma must have gone through all these years. We won’t get Baba back but the verdict will bring a sense of closure,” said the MBBS student, who barely slept on Sunday night.