Twenty years after he was sent to jail for the murder of his wife, former Congress youth leader Sushil Kumar Sharma is set to walk free, with the Delhi High Court allowing him to be released on unconditional parole till a final decision on his release is taken.
Sharma has been in jail for the most part of his sentence, getting parole for six weeks in May this year, and then again in July. He approached the Delhi High Court earlier this month with a plea for premature release, claiming that he had spent over 24 years in jail, including four years in remissions earned over the period of imprisonment.
Arguing before the bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul Tuesday, additional standing counsel for state advocate Sanjay Lao said that the plea for review of Sharma’s sentence had been considered by the Sentence Reviewing Board (SRB) and had been forwarded to the competent authority — Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor — for a decision.
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“The only course of action that recommends itself is to request the competent authority to expedite the decision and render it finally within a reasonable period of time,” said the court in its order.
Now 54, Sharma had shot his wife Naina Sahni to death in 1995 as he objected to her relationship with a male friend. He had then chopped her body into pieces and attempted to burn it in a restaurant’s oven. Popularly known as the tandoor murder case, it is one of the landmark cases in India in which DNA evidence and a second autopsy were used to establish that the accused was guilty.
The bench also took note of arguments made by Sharma’s counsel Sumeet Verma, who pointed out that the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court, in various judgments, have allowed prisoners to be released on parole till the final disposal of their representation for release. Verma also told the court that a Supreme Court bench, in 2013, had commuted the death penalty awarded to Sharma to life imprisonment, and had held that the crime committed by Sharma was “not a crime against society” but was a murder arising out of a “strained personal relationship”. The top court had also held that there was a possibility of Sharma’s rehabilitation, Verma said.
“In view of the foregoing, the NCT of Delhi is directed to release the petitioner on parole during the pendency of the final order to be passed by the competent authority on his representation seeking release on the completion of more than 24 years of incarceration,” held the court.
Sharma, in his plea, had alleged that the SRB had last held a meeting in May 2014, following which, in July 2014, the Supreme Court issued a stay order directing all states not to take any decision exercising the power of remission of sentences. No decision was taken even after the Supreme Court relaxed its stay order in July this year, says the plea.
In its reply, the Delhi government said that the SRB had, in fact, taken its decision on the plea, and had sent the report to the LG, the competent authority to take a final decision.