EXTERNAL AI Index: ASA 20/34/95
31 October 1995
Further information on UA 155/94 (ASA 20/12/94, 20 April 1994) - Death penalty
Amnesty International fears for the life of Dhananjoy Chatterjee after receiving
reports indicating that preparations are being made for his execution.
Dhananjoy Chatterjee was sentenced to death in August 1991 for rape and murder
allegedly committed in March 1990. After unsuccessful appeals to both the
High Court and the Supreme Court, he was due to be hanged on 25 February 1994.
However, his family made a final appeal to the President on 6 February, after
which the date of execution was postponed to 4 and then 18 March 1994. As
far as Amnesty International is aware the execution has not yet been carried
out and the petition filed by Dhananjoy Chatterjee's relatives has not yet
received an answer from the President.
A national Indian newspaper has now reported that the Inspector General of
Prisons has recently asked the superintendent of Alipore Jail, where Dhananjoy
Chatterjee is being held, to set a new date for execution and to contact the
hangman, who would be rewarded 10,000 Rupees and a permanent identity card
for his part in the execution. Earlier it was reported that the hangman hired
by Alipore jail refused to carry out Dhananjoy Chatterjee's execution until
he was awarded a pay rise.
The state home secretary has reportedly denied having any knowledge that the
petition asking for commutation of Dhananjoy Chatterjee's death sentence had
been rejected by the President and that preparations for Dhananjoy Chatterjee's
execution had been made for that reason.
The Indian Constitution protects the right to life. Yet on average a dozen
executions are carried out in India every year for criminal offences. Many
of those executed are poor and illiterate.
The death penalty in India is usually carried out by hanging. An attempt to
challenge this method of execution failed before the Supreme Court, which stated
in a 1981 judgement that hanging did not involve torture, barbarity, humiliation
or degradation. Amnesty International believes it involves all of these.
Although India's highest courts have ruled that the death penalty can only
be applied in the "rarest of the rare" cases, the number of offences carrying
the death penalty has been extended in recent years. Several Supreme Court
judgements have ruled that a death sentence, if not carried out for more than
two years, should be commuted to life imprisonment on the grounds of inexcusable
delay in execution of sentence, while other judgements have ruled that no
specific time limit could be set for converting a sentence of death into life
imprisonment on grounds of delay in execution.
FURTHER RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/
airmail letters in English or in your own language:
- expressing serious concern at recent press reports that preparations for
Dhananjoy Chatterjee's execution are apparently being made while the
President's answer to a petition for clemency is still awaited;