The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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One hangs, other goes free
- Contrasting fates of similarly accused before same judge

Calcutta, Sept. 9: The script is the same, but the ending dramatically different.

One year before R.N. Kali, as sessions judge of the Alipore court, sentenced Dhananjoy Chatterjee to death for raping and killing 14-year-old Hetal Parekh, he had presided over a similar case in Midnapore. In 1992, as the then sessions judge of the Midnapore court, he had heard the case of a 12-year-old girl being raped and killed by a local youth, Goutam Biswas, and had sentenced him to life imprisonment.

Dhananjoy was hanged recently, Goutam spent only seven days behind bars.

Today, encouraged by the manner in which 'justice had been carried out' in the Dhananjoy case, the girl's father, Trilochan Maiti, a paan and bidi seller in Midnapore, moved Calcutta High Court seeking to 'correct the injustice' that had been meted out to him.

'After witnessing the Dhananjoy case, I am certain that justice can be delayed but not denied,' he told the court which admitted his petition for hearing.

According to Maiti's petition, in May 1988, his 12-year-old daughter Putul had gone to spend her summer holiday in her uncle's house in nearby Tamluk, in the same Midnapore district. There, one evening, a neighbour, Goutam, then 18 years of age, lured her over to the terrace of a half-constructed house with the promise of mangoes. After talking to her briefly, he raped and then strangled her to death.

The entire night Putul's family looked for her and, unable to find her, complained to police. The next morning, when the masons returned to work at the house they discovered Putul's body.

As news of the crime spread, a few people in the locality came forward to report that they had spotted Putul with Goutam the previous evening. Members of Putul's family, along with some local residents, confronted Goutam.

Unable to provide a satisfactory defence, Goutam confessed to killing Putul, saying he had no option left other than to strangle her when she told him she would report the rape to her uncle. He also said he had planned to cut her to bits, put the pieces in a sack and then dumped it in a pond so no evidence of the crime could be found.

On the basis of the confession, the police arrested Goutam and the case went to court. However, he was released when his family told the court that he was only 15 years old. The court directed that an age determination test be carried out on Goutam before it pronounced a judgment.

Under the supervision of the sub-divisional judicial magistrate ' and after a full four years ' it was determined that Goutam was nearly 19 years old when he raped and killed Putul.

In July 1992, Goutam appeared before judge Kali who sentenced him to life imprisonment.

Within a week of his conviction, a period he spent in a Midnapore jail, Goutam approached Calcutta High Court challenging his conviction and pleading for interim bail.

The high court admitted the appeal for hearing of his case and granted him bail. That was 12 years ago. Ever since, Goutam has been a free man while his appeal lies before the court.

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