In 30 years, only one death sentence for rape and murder

While the entire nation is seething in anger demanding death penalty for the culprits who gang-raped the 23-year-old woman in New Delhi, instances of death sentence in rape and murder cases are scarce.

In the last three decades, only Dhananjoy Chatterjee was sentenced to death for rape and murder of a teenager in a residential apartment in Kolkata in 2004.

Chatterjee was convicted of raping and murdering 14-year-old Hetal Parekh on March 15, 1990 and was hanged on his birthday by the then ruling Left Front government despite protests from social and human rights organisations who are against capital punishment.

Chatterjee, a lift operator in the building where Hetal Parekh and her family lived, raped and killed the girl when she returned home to an empty flat from school.          

The Alipore Sessions Court awarded Dhananjoy Chatterjee life imprisonment for rape and death sentence for murder, terming the case as one of “the rarest of rare cases”.

 The sentence was upheld both by the High Court and the Supreme Court, and the Governor of West Bengal rejected the mercy plea filed by the convict’s relatives.

Subsequently, based on the views of the state government, it was also rejected by the then President A P J Abdul Kalam and Chatterjee was hanged at Alipore Central jail on August 14, 2004.

Human Rights Activist Kirti Roy who fought against capital punishment of Dhananjoy Chatterjee still believes that death sentence is not the solution to reduce incidents of rape. Speaking to Deccan Herald, Roy said: “In the seven days, post Chatterjee’s hanging there had been 13 instances of rape in West Bengal including one where some police personnel (GRP) were involved.

So the theory that death punishment would act as a deterrent failed. Moreover, countries all over the world have realised that penal theory has failed miserably so they all are gradually prohibiting capital punishment.”

“If I were the judge, I would have asked the culprits to stay with the victim’s family throughout their lives and serve them. This will make them realise every moment about the loss they have inflicted on the family.”

Although most of the lawyers denied to comment, considering the sensitivity of the case, eminent lawyer Arunava Ghosh said: “I am against death penalty. If rape is punished with death then the offenders after raping a woman, in an effort to wipe out evidence, would surely kill her. Today murder is punished with death and if rape is also punished with death, then there is all likelihood that the rapists would kill their victims.”


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