Death sentence: No uniform criteria

Close on the heels of Dhananjay Chatterjee’s hanging for raping and killing a 14-year-old student in Kolkata, the Supreme Court has commuted the death sentence of Rohit, a 24-year-old convict in Maharashtra for a similar crime involving a 4-year-old girl (Aug 19). There is no uniformity of justice in the two cases. While the first had only circumstantial evidence and no direct evidence, in the second case, the Judges commuted the sentence to help the convict reform himself.

Was Dhananjay too old to be given a chance to change even after serving over 14 years of imprisonment? How can justice differ from person to person in the same country? Was the pain and agony of Kolkata’s Hatel Parekh and her family any different from that of this minor girl and her family in Maharashtra? If death sentence should be awarded only in rarest of the rare cases, I do not see any difference in the degree of crime committed by the two convicts in question.

Dr USHVINDER KAUR POPLI, Reader, Social Work Dept., Punjabi University, Patiala





Hatel’s parents got justice after 14 years. Dhananjay’s hanging was a lesson to those who think of committing rape. But after three days of this incident, a rapist’s death sentence was commuted into life imprisonment by the Supreme Court on the ground that he was only 24 and should be given a chance to reform himself.

It is a strange paradox that at the age of 24, Rohit was considered immature. In India, at the age of 18, we cast our vote and are considered mature enough to take right decisions. So why was the convict’s sentence changed on this ground?

Unlike Dhananjay, Rohit had raped a four-year-old innocent girl by luring her with a chocolate. But the rapes are all well planned. Now again, there will be a chain of trials and pleas. I would request human rights activists, who were raising slogans before Dhananjay’s hanging, to come forward so that rapists are punished expeditiously.

AARTI SHARMA, Chandigarh


The two cases should be examined together with the case of the lynching of a criminal in the premises of a Maharashtra court recently. Unwillingness on the part of the prosecution and loopholes in the law help criminals escape. In such cases, incidents like the lynching of a criminal will become a common sight. The court has erred in commuting Rohit’s death sentence to life imprisonment. Commutation should be given only for those over 65 years of age.



Dhananjay was hanged for his crime after 14 years of trial. But there are many Dhananjays who are roaming freely in the country. They are not only hoodwinking the long arms of law but also violating the court’s orders with impunity. Their crimes are no less than that of Dhananjay’s. In India, the law takes its own course only in the case of the common man.

RAJINDER RANA, Patlandhar (HP)


Whether capital punishment is justified or not is debatable. But a serious debate is required in Dhananjay’s case for two reasons. First, almost everyday we hear about rapes and murders through the media. In reality, the number would be much more. Why don’t we find death sentence in the same proportion, i.e., at least one penalty daily? This suggests that most criminals manage to escape the gallows for one reason or the other.

Secondly, exemplary punishment is needed for a crime like rape and murder of a school girl. But how far a death sentence can stop or even reduce the number of such crimes is a big question mark.

Dr R.R. PAUL, Ludhiana


Let us heave a sigh of relief that after 14 long years, a rapist and murderer got what he deserved appropriately. The agony of Hatel’s parents can’t be expressed in words. But the criminals should never be portrayed as martyrs who too kissed the gallows.

KARNAIL SINGH, Shahpur Kandi

Arjun’s hypocrisy

I WAS intrigued by Union Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh’s outbursts against the RSS for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. This act of Nathuram Godse was, no doubt, a heinous crime for which he was rightly hanged. But Mr Singh has conveniently kept quite about the Congressmen who have been consistently killing the Mahatma for the last 57 years by their luxurious lifestyle, reeking with the odour of corruption.

Haven’t the Congressmen murdered the Mahatma by consciously ignoring his principles of honesty, integrity and simplicity? They have built palaces and luxurious farm houses with tainted money. Is it service of the people for which the Mahatma lived and suffered all his life or sheer loot? Union Ministers don’t talk about rampant corruption in the administration or of curbing it. The situation was no different in the NDA regime.

R.L. SINGAL, Chandigarh


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