The last hanging took 14 years after rape and murder

FP

It took 14 years after schoolgirl Hetal Parekh's rape and murder for the man held responsible, Dhananjoy Chatterjee, to be brought to justice. Part of the reason was that the government had apparently forgotten about the case for a decade.

Hetal was raped and murdered on March 15, 1990; Dhananjoy was hanged at Alipore Central Jail on August 14, 2004. He remains the last murderer-rapist to be hanged in the country. He was a guard at Hetal's apartment in south Kolkata. Hetal's parents had gone out and left the keys with Dhananjoy, telling him to hand them over to Hetal when she returned from school. When she did, Dhananjoy followed her inside. "The girl choked to death while she was being raped," said a police officer who had been part of the team that investigated the case.

A few months later, Hetal's father Nagar Das and his family shifted to Mumbai, unable to remain in a flat with such painful memories.

"Dhananjoy went absconding and we sent our men to his village in Bankura district," said the police officer. "He was moving between his house and his father-in-law's house in another village. One of our men overheard a conversation and a raid landed Dhananjoy in the net."

The Alipore sessions court sentenced Dhananjoy to death in 1991. Over the next four years, Dhananjoy appealed successively in the Calcutta High Court and the Supreme Court, and filed mercy petitions with the governor and the President. All were rejected.

On March 16, 1994, his lawyers moved the high court for a review. The court stayed the execution. The case went out of the government's focus until November 2003, when the law and justice department "chanced upon the case while going through some files" and wrote to the high court chief justice asking why the stay hadn't been vacated so long.

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