The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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State in search of hangman and noose
Nata Mallick: No mood to oblige

With every passing day, the hangman’s noose may be closing in on Dhananjoy Chatterjee, the liftman and security guard sentenced to death for the murder and rape of a 14-year-old school-girl at her south Calcutta flat 15 years back, but the authorities have a problem on hand: the lack of a hangman and the noose.

Both the hangman and the noose in service during the last hanging in the city are uncertain this time and the authorities are now racing against time in search of replacements.

The city’s last hanging occurred more than a decade ago when, in 1991, two persons were executed for murdering four members of a family in Balurghat, in South Dinajpur. Since no death sentence was passed in the past 13 years, not much thought was paid to the infrastructure necessary for the purpose, officials admitted.

The firm — Ganga Ropes Company — that used to supply the special noose has downed shutters, say officials. Since the British era, it has been supplying the rope that put an end to the most fearsome of criminals.

“This has forced us to look elsewhere for the rope,” a senior judicial department official said on Saturday. “The ropes have to be pre-tested for their strength,” he added. According to rules, if the rope snaps during a hanging, the execution has to be put on hold.

Officials, therefore, are now contacting merchants in Burrabazar for supplying the rope. “The rope will probably have to be bought from a firm that is new to us,” one of them added.

The other problem revolves around the hangman. Nata Mallick, the person who used to perform a duty not many were keen to do, is cut up with the state government. “I was promised a government job for my son,” Mallick said. “But the government has not kept its word,” he added, hinting that he was not in a mood to do the job this time. This is forcing the state government to look for his replacement as well.

A hangman of Tihar Jail in Delhi has already been contacted, say officials. But he has demanded an “astronomical” allowance, stay at a three-star hotel in the city and a to-and-fro air ticket.

Recently, Chatterjee — convicted of raping and murdering 14-year-old Hetal Parekh (he was the security-guard of her Lansdowne Road apartment) — filed a case in Calcutta High Court, arguing that the jail authorities should not be allowed to execute the death sentence till they notified the method of execution.

A division bench rejected the appeal and Chatterjee’s lawyer said he would appeal in the Supreme Court. But public prosecutor Kazi Safiullah said the appeal was yet to be made.

Only one more procedural formality is left — a letter from the state judicial secretary has to reach the jail authorities — before the government has to get both noose and hangman in place, say officials.

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