Aug. 12: His composure shattered and his last hope dashed, Dhananjoy Chatterjee let out a loud wail and burst into tears when a warder informed him in his condemned cell at Alipore Central Jail this afternoon that the Supreme Court had dismissed the petition his brother had filed for a stay of his execution.
“This cannot be true,” he screamed. “My brother promised that I would live.”
In Delhi, after hearing the arguments by a battery of lawyers representing Dhananjoy, who 14 years ago had raped and murdered teenager Hetal Parekh in the girl’s south Calcutta home, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition filed by his brother Bikash in the last possible attempt to stop the hanging, scheduled for Saturday morning.
A five-judge full Constitution bench headed by the Chief Justice of India, R.C. Lahoti, said “the petition is devoid of merits” and dismissed it.
Lahoti made it clear that there was only one point for consideration: whether the President had before him all relevant material while rejecting Dhananjoy’s mercy petition and whether there was “lack of application of the mind”.
As for the other points raised by Dhananjoy’s defence — like procedural impropriety and inordinate delay in the execution of the sentence — Lahoti said if these were examined, it would amount to “reopening of the case”, which was not the court’s intention.
The bench explained that the trial of the case had run its full course through the Alipore sessions court, followed by Calcutta High Court and the Supreme Court, which had confirmed the sentence.
It informed lawyer Colin Gonzalves, who led Dhananjoy’s defence, that there was no evidence to prove that the President did not consider all relevant material while dismissing the mercy plea.
With this ruling, attempts to save Dhananjoy have come to an end. Gonzalves and his team have decided against filing a review petition as it will be “an exercise in futility”.
In his cell, Dhananjoy woke up early and stayed tuned to his FM radio set and refused lunch as he was “too tense”. “But he kept insisting — it seemed more like he was reassuring himself — that his brother’s promise was enough to keep him going,” a warder said.
Another warder informed him of the court’s verdict and he broke down. “He just wouldn’t stop wailing,” a warder on duty said. “We consoled him but he wouldn’t stop. Finally, jail superintendent Ranjit Mondal had to rush up to his cell and try to pacify him.”
After some time, Dhananjoy did stop crying, collected himself and said he was reconciled to his imminent death. “But see that no harm comes to my family, especially my wife. Please ensure that they don’t carry out their threat to kill themselves,” he said.
Dhananjoy kept to himself after that and had his dinner of rice, dal, vegetables and fish. But before turning in for the night, he made one request to Mondal: that hangman Nata Mullick, who was taken into the jail tonight (he will stay till the hanging is over), was not brought before him until the time of the hanging.
Separated from her husband for 14 years after only seven months of married life, Purnima said: “Now, I will have to live with those faint memories.”
Jails minister Bishwanath Choudhury said that, apart from a “minor public interest litigation” in the high court, which is expected to be taken up tomorrow, there was no legal procedure to be completed.
Human rights bodies are expected to request the President tomorrow to consider a series of appeals for mercy they had submitted to him.