Calcutta, June 25: Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee made it clear today that he fully supported the death sentence given to Dhananjoy Chatterjee for raping and murdering Hetal Parekh, a 14-year-old schoolgirl.
“He must be hanged,’’ Bhattacharjee said at Writers’ Buildings hours after the President’s office in Delhi sought the state government’s views.
“We have told Delhi that we are in favour of hanging,’’ he added.
On March 5, 1990, Dhananjoy raped and killed the young girl in her apartment building where he worked as caretaker-cum-lift operator.
Dhananjoy’s execution was postponed yesterday following an order from the Union home ministry. The order said the President was considering the appeals made by Dhananjoy’s family members, rights activists and Amnesty International to convert the death sentence to life imprisonment. The execution will, therefore, be put on hold till the President gives his opinion, the order said.
The relieved 42-year-old convict shaved today after three days and had a good meal, talking and shaking hands with fellow prisoners.
Bhattacharjee had been noncommittal till yesterday. But on Friday, he came out strongly in favour of upholding the death sentence. “Dhananjoy was awarded the death sentence a long time ago and there are differences of opinion over capital punishment. However, in my opinion, Dhananjoy must get the capital punishment, considering the nature of the crime committed by him. There can be no other punishment that can match this kind of heinous crime. As hanging is the only way of executing a death sentence in our country, we want to see him hanged,” Bhattacharjee said.
The chief minister’s office swung into action this morning after a fax message from the President’s office reached home secretary Amit Kiran Deb, seeking the state government’s opinion.
Deb held discussions with Bhattacharjee and other senior officials. Before that the chief minister had sought the views of legal experts.
Law minister Nisith Adhikary said a strong lobby had been “active” in having Dhananjoy’s death sentence commuted to life imprisonment. “This is apparent from the manner in which the issue is being raked up even after the mercy petition was rejected by the lower court, high court and the Supreme Court,” he said.
Human rights organisation Amnesty International India has been campaigning for a lighter punishment. In a letter to the President, it said: “The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and violates the right to life. There has also been no evidence to suggest that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other punishments. Further, in this case, the prolonged delay in execution (over a decade) may itself constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”
“In light of the above, Amnesty International India urges you to immediately commute the death sentence.”