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Eight get life term for Pal murder

Doctor Piyali Das Mondal, expelled CPM leader Biswajyoti Basu and six others convicted in the 2004 murder of gynaecologist Sushil Pal have been sentenced to life imprisonment.

Four others, who have been convicted of destruction of evidence, have been sentenced to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment.

The district and sessions judge gave the convicts a chance to speak before reading out the sentence on Tuesday.

Piyali — Pal was killed because of his refusal to abort her child — was given the first chance. “I have never set eyes on him (Pal)… I have a nine-year-old daughter at home who depends on me. Please reconsider (the conviction),” she pleaded with the judge.

Biswajyoti Basu, who ran a nursing home in Bally where Piyali worked and where Pal had been murdered, claimed he, too, had never seen Pal.

“I have a son who is in his first year of a law course.... I have a wife and a 80-year-old mother at home. My father was a freedom fighter who had spent four years in jail for his fight for Independence.”

The six others who have been sentenced for life are Amit Banerjee, Prahlad Sarkar, Surendra Agarwal, Mumtaz Ahmed Khan and Shubonarayan Ghose (see graphic).

The ones who have been sentenced to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment are Biswanath Kangshabanik, Rajib Nath, Chandan Dom and Jayanta Ghosh.

“Those convicted of murder are being given life imprisonment. The other four, convicted of tampering with evidence, are being sentenced to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment,” district and sessions judge Tanmoy Gupta said.

Life term means imprisonment unto death. However, a lifer can appeal for a review of the jail term after 14 years. The jail authorities can forward the appeal to the state government if they are satisfied with the lifer’s conduct.

Piyali, Khan and Surendra Agarwal were on bail, while Basu and the four others sentenced for life were in judicial custody throughout the investigation and trial.

Of those who have been sentenced to life imprisonment, Basu, Piyali, Banerjee, Sarkar and Ghose have been fined Rs 10,000. The other three have been fined Rs 5,000.

Those who have been sentenced to seven years in jail have to pay a fine of Rs 2,000 each, failing which their jail term will be increased by three months.

“For those who have been charged with murder we are praying for capital punishment. We pray to treat their offence as the rarest of rare. The offence is not just against a person but against society as the doctor could have helped a large number of people had he not been killed. Two children lost their father untimely and unjustifiably,” special public prosecutor Sandip Kumar Bhattacharya submitted before the judge read out the sentence.

“I am relieved that they have been punished. The first step is the lower court,” said Pal’s wife Kanika.

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

According to the CID, the 47-year-old had been summoned to a nursing home run by Basu on July 2 to abort Piyali’s child. His refusal to perform the abortion led to the murder.