An Armed Police constable picks up his lathi and dons his green helmet. Traffic sergeants get busy clearing the crowds. Lawyers stand back and police officers pull out their cellphones.
It’s 2.45 pm on Thursday and the sleepy rear end of the city civil and sessions court comes alive. One by one, the five guilty men walk down, their faces covered with kerchiefs.
Pijush Goswami, Madhusudan Chakraborty, Sridam Bauri, Mujibur Rehman and Shekhar Mitra file down the concrete pathway to the black prison van, on their way to Presidency jail.
Some three-and-a-half hours after the final judgment, Debasish Mitra waved goodbye to brother Shekhar. Back in Behrampore, Mitra admits, he dreads having to finally break the news to his widowed mother.
“Our father died during the course of the trial. When Shekhar turned up for the rituals, he told my mother that his police training was still on. She believed him. Now…”
The words trailed off into the muggy July air, amidst the shuffle of feet and the hum of the court corridor.
If Wednesday’s verdict came after a long wait for Bapi Sen’s brother Anup, Thursday’s sentence was short and swift.
By 11.20 am, the judgment had been delivered and the fate of the five constables sealed. Found responsible for the death of sergeant Bapi Sen on the night of December 31, 2002, they had been sentenced to a life behind bars.
Anup stood at one end of the corridor, holding on to a folded umbrella, close to 18 months since he had first started knocking on the doors of justice.
“I’m not sure if Bapi’s soul will find any solace. But it is satisfying to know that justice has been delivered... Back home, we will have nothing but Bapi’s memories to live with.”
Anup was in quite a different frame of mind around 10.50 am when the session started for the day. The accused were bought in from the rear corridor and herded into the cage-like box, amid tight security.
There were constables, sub-inspectors and sergeants all over — at the entrance, near the convict box, inside the room and outside.
The five sat silently and stood up in unison as judge Basudeb Majumdar stepped in — sharp at 11 am. Unlike Wednesday, the room was not packed to capacity. The relatives sat in one corner and the lawyers stood in rows.
On the podium, the judge pulled up his chair and settled down. The accused were called up for a personal hearing and the five walked up in a row, guarded by police, right up to the podium.
As the judge turned to them, the five started off, pleading innocence, before defiance gave way to despair.
Mujibur pleaded that he had a daughter who was barely one-and-a-half years old.
Pijush cried with folded hands: “Sir, my widowed mother is not aware of all this and she has no one to look after her...”
Shekhar pleaded with the judge in the name of his mother, who would not be able to “live with this shame”. Madhusudan and Sridam, too, referred to their parents while seeking clemency.
Submissions over, the five shuffled back to their ‘cage’, where they stood for the final judgment, heads bowed.
Judge Basudeb Majumdar then looked up and passed the sentence — life imprisonment.