The honourable Supreme Court has recently commuted the death sentence of Mohd. Firoz, a child rapist.
The Supreme Court Bench observed that the maximum punishment prescribed may not always be “the determinative factor for repairing the crippled psyche of the offender“.
In 2013, Firoz raped and murdered a four-year-old girl. He kidnapped the child from the verandah of her house while she was playing. In fact, he kidnapped two children – a boy and a girl. The boy was let off later. The girl’s body was found the next day. Her underwear was removed and blood had curdled in her nostrils indicating that she was smothered. I am not going into the bare details of the crime.
Even after considering the brutality of the crime, the Supreme Court, ordered that the life imprisonment for the offence under section 376A IPC (Punishment for sexual assault) will be a “sentence of imprisonment for a period of twenty years instead of imprisonment for the remainder of his natural life.”
Here is a link to the court order can be read below where the barbarity of the crime and the sequence of events that followed the brutal murder of the girl is recorded in great detail.
I went through the judgement again and again. I didn’t find any mention of the case of Dhananjoy Chatterjee who was sentenced to death on charges of murdering an 18-year-old girl.
He was kept on death row for 14 years before the execution.
In his case, the Supreme Court observed:
"We agree that a real and abiding concern for the dignity of human life is required to be kept in mind by the courts while considering the confirmation of the sentence of death but a cold blooded preplanned brutal murder, without any provocation, after committing rape on an innocent and defenceless young girl of 18 years, by the security guard certainly makes this case a "rarest of the rare" cases..." - Supreme Court of India, in the case of Dhananjoy Chatterjee versus State of West Bengal, 1994
The order can be accessed here. This case was considered as a rarest of the rare case because of the nature of the crime and the brutality that was involved. The mercy petition was later rejected by the President of India on the same grounds.
This, despite the fact that the investigation had many obvious inaccuracies and the conclusions of the police investigations, were purely constructed on circumstantial evidence.
The accused maintained till the last day that he is innocent, didn’t get a fair trial, was not represented properly during the trial and most importantly, that he is being hanged because he is poor.
This must also be pointed out here that Dhananjoy Chatterjee languished in jail for 14 long years before he was hanged a day after his 39th birthday. So, in the end, it was 14 years of life imprisonment and then execution.
The obvious inaccuracies in the case was duly pointed out by many activists which also included Meera Bhattacharjee, wife of former chief minister of West Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
Even after death of Dhananjoy, the issue was taken up by activists after two Kolkata professors published a comprehensive study which pointed out at a botched investigation and miscarriage of justice. A film was also made on the case which narrated how the “system” acted in accordance to public sentiments and an agenda driven media rather than ensuring that the guilt of the accused was proven without reasonable doubt as per accepted jurisprudence.
Dhananjoy Chatterjee, a Bengali Hindu Brahmin, was executed on 14 August, 2004. His family refused to accept his body in protest.
Dhananjoy’s victim was 18 years old. Firoz’s victim was merely four. Crime against children are considered to be the most heinous in every corner of the world – whether it is a religious court or a civil society court. There are no exceptions to this.
How come Dhananjoy Chatterjee’s case qualifies as a fit case of 14 years of incarceration and subsequent execution but Firoz deserves a life and only 20 years in jail?
How come one man deserved to die and another, who committed a more heinous crime, deserves to live?