Nine years is a long time to make a move to hang a man, who raped a Class IX student. But the state government has done just that, letting the rapist — the “caretaker” of the building his victim lived in — stay alive for nine years after the President rejected his plea.
The man who sent shivers down the city’s spine in December 1989 was Dhananjay Chatterjee, caretaker-cum-liftman of a highrise near Puddapukur, in Bhowanipore. Taking advantage of the trust he enjoyed with the residents of the apartment, he raped and then murdered Hetal Parekh, whose mother had left for the nearby Lakshminarayan Temple after handing over the flat’s keys to him.
Chatterjee had been told to give the keys to Hetal when she returned from school in the afternoon, which he did. But he also followed her into the flat, locked it from inside and then raped her, before killing her by choking her with some clothes.
He then fled the city and was ultimately arrested at a friend’s house in Midnapore in February 1990.
The trial court did not take too long in sentencing him to “death by hanging”. That was in August 1991. Chatterjee’s legal team then went to Calcutta High Court, arguing against the death sentence. But the high court, after hearing the matter for a year, upheld the lower court’s verdict in August 1992.
Chatterjee moved Supreme Court but the apex court, too, upheld the death sentence in January 1994. Filing a review petition did not help either, and Chatterjee took his plea to the Governor’s office next month, which turned him down. Chatterjee’s lawyers then moved the President of India and simultaneously moved high court, seeking a stay on the sentence.
The court did grant a stay till the Presidential verdict, but Rashtrapati Bhavan turned down the appeal in June 1994. All that remained between Chatterjee and the noose was a mere formality — the state government was required to move the court informing it of the President’s order and asking for permission to go ahead with the hanging.
But the state government took all of nine years to do this. Very recently, it wrote to Chief Justice A.K. Mathur, asking for a court nod for the hanging.
“The matter is coming up for hearing in Justice D.P. Sengupta’s court on Thursday,” public prosecutor Kazi Safiullah said on Wednesday.