Fourteen years after he shocked a city by raping and throttling a 14-year-old schoolgirl to death, Dhananjoy Chatterjee was served the final death sentence — the first order of a man in Bengal to be hanged until death in 16 years.
Friday saw Justice D.P. Sengupta in Calcutta High Court vacating a stay order passed by the late Justice N.K. Mitra, in February 1994. The stay had been obtained against an earlier order handing the death sentence to Chatterjee, caretaker of the Puddapukur building, in south Calcutta, where his victim, Hetal Parekh, lived.
The nine years since the rapist and murderer obtained the stay have passed, with no attention being focussed on the case and Chatterjee continuing to live outside the condemned cell in Presidency jail designated for prisoners on death row. This, long after even the President had rejected his mercy plea.
Taking a swipe at the inexplicable and inordinate delay over conclusion of the matter, Justice Sengupta said: “It is unfortunate that such a serious matter took so much time to be resolved, but it was never made clear who was to blame for the delay.”
With the stay being lifted, the execution order will be carried out by the jail authorities and the Alipore sessions court, which had first condemned him to death, explained state law minister Nisith Adhikary, adding that the process should not take much time now.
The Parekhs, who lost their daughter to the heinous crime 14 years ago, have always made it a point to attend the court proceedings. But on Friday, when the final barrier to the end of the case was lifted, they were not around, probably as they did not expect the judgment so soon.
December 1989 was when Chatterjee, caretaker-cum-liftman of the Bhowanipore highrise, had struck. He raped and then murdered the Class IX student, 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. He did so, but did not stop at that. He followed her into the flat, locked it from inside and then raped her, before choking her to death.
The murderer was arrested in Midnapore in February 1990. The trial court sentenced him to “death by hanging” in August 1991. Calcutta High Court upheld the verdict in August 1992 and the Supreme Court did the same in January 1994. Finally, the President’s office turned down his appeal in June 1994.
Ever since, all that remained to be done by the state government was to inform the court about the President’s order and seek permission for the hanging. But the state government sat on the matter for all of nine years, before writing to Chief Justice A.K. Mathur recently.
Now, nothing but the final formalities separate Chatterjee and the noose.