14 August 1965
|Died||14 August 2004 (aged 39)|
Dhananjoy Chatterjee (Bengali: ধনঞ্জয় চট্টোপাধ্যায়, romanized: Dhônonjôy Chôṭṭopadhdhay) (14 August 1965 – 14 August 2004) was the first person who was judicially executed in India in the 21st century for murder. The execution by hanging took place in Alipore Jail, Kolkata, on 14 August 2004. He was charged in 1990 for the crimes of rape and murder of Hetal Parekh, a 15-year-old school-girl.
Dhananjoy was born in Kuludihi, Bankura West Bengal, India and worked as a security guard in Kolkata. He had married Purnima just eight months before he was arrested in the Hetal Parekh case by falsely claiming he was working in the Border Security Force when he was only a security guard. Purnima works as an anganwadi worker with a salary of Rs 1,200 per month and after his execution lives with her parents even after the execution of her husband she has refused to remarry.
Hetal Parekh was a student of Welland Gouldsmith School at Bowbazar, Kolkata. She used to live with her parents and elder brother in a third floor flat of Anand Apartments in Bhawanipore. The Parekhs moved into this flat in 1987. Dhananjoy was a security guard of this agency. He had worked in that building for about three years.
On 5 March 1990, Dhananjoy performed security duty during the morning shift (6 am to 2 pm). Hetal left for her ICSE examination at about 7:30 am. After the examination, she returned home. In the afternoon, only Hetal and her mother were there in the flat.
Hetal's mother went to visit a temple in the vicinities in the afternoon. After returning from the temple, she being unable to enter her home, despite repeated knocking, asked some servants of other flats to break the door open. Hetal was found lying dead near the door connecting the living room with the Parekh couple's bedroom with blood stains on her face and on the floor. Two local doctors examined Hetal and declared her dead.
Dhananjoy was not seen in the area after the murder had been discovered. He became the focal point of police investigations. He was eventually arrested by the police from his village home at Kuludihi near Chhatna, Bankura, in the early hours of 12 May 1990.
The case was investigated by the Detective Department of Kolkata Police. The chargesheet prepared by the police included the charges of rape, murder and the theft of a wrist watch. The trial took place in the second court of the Additional Sessions Judge at Alipore. Since there was no direct witness to the murder, the case hinged on circumstantial evidence only. After the sessions court convicted Dhananjoy of all the offenses and sentenced him to death, the High Court at Calcutta and the Supreme Court of India upheld the conviction and the death sentence. The Supreme Court convicted Dhananjoy and regarded the crime as a heinous combination of offenses, aggravated by the fact that as a security guard Dhananjoy had been in charge of the victim's safety—enough to make it belong to the rarest of rare category of crimes-warranting a death sentence.
Claims of innocence
Dhananjoy had claimed repeatedly during his trial that he was completely innocent and that he had nothing to do with the murder, rape or theft. He maintained his stance till the day of his execution.
Some academics and lawyers have questioned the validity of the death sentence and the proceedings of the trial. Professors from ISI Kolkata—Debasish Sengupta, Probal Chaudhuri and Paramesh Goswami have conducted investigative journalism on the issue; publishing the findings in a book titled Adalat-Media-Samaj Ebong Dhananjayer Fashi (Court-Media-Society and The Hanging of Dhananjoy) . It criticized the handling of the case, the media-trial and faulted the delivered judgement. The film Dhananjay is primarily based on the book.
Dhananjoy's execution was scheduled on 25 June 2004. It was stayed after his family petitioned the Supreme Court of India, and filed a mercy plea with the then President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. On 26 June 2004 a campaign to ensure Dhananjoy's hanging was initiated. Mrs. Meera Bhattacharjee, wife of Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee the then Chief Minister of West Bengal, led the campaign. Several individuals and human rights groups came forward to oppose the execution. The mercy plea was finally rejected by the president on 4 August 2004.
Dhananjay, a film based on the events of the case was released on 11 August 2017 regionally and on Amazon Prime. The film was directed by Arindam Sil, and cast Anirban Bhattacharya and Mimi Chakraborty in the lead roles .
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- "Dhananjoy to be hanged" – article in the Indian Express dated 5 August 2004 referring to his mercy petition being rejected by the President of India
- "Dhananjoy Chatterjee to be hanged on Saturday" – article in the Deccan Herald on 11 August 2004
- "On death row Chatterjee gets a reprieve" – article in HTTabloid.com dated 11 August 2004
- "Dhananjoy Chatterjee cremated" – article in Indian Express dated 14 August 2004