For nearly nine months, Preeti Singh Sandhu fought the stigma of being the wife of a man accused of involvement in murder, clinging to the conviction that her husband would be ultimately proven innocent.
On Saturday, the young mother of two boys succumbed to a five-day fever that damaged her brain.
But it was only after four days that her husband, Yashveer Singh Sandhu, could get to see the body of his wife — after the Allahabad High Court allowed a plea that both the district judge and district magistrate had refused to entertain. On the court’s order, Sandhu was given parole so he could cremate Preeti on Wednesday.
Sandhu, 35, was arrested from the couple’s B block, Adan Bagh, home in April last year in connection with the murder of Neha Sharma, a 27-year-old researcher whose body had been found in a laboratory at the Dayal Bagh Educational Institute a month earlier.
Agra Police accused Sandhu, a technician at the lab, of helping to destroy evidence after Sharma was murdered by 21-year-old B.Sc student Uday Swaroop, who police said was infatuated with the woman. But the police failed to take their case forward, and in August, the investigation was transferred to the CBI.
After Preeti died on January 4, the family ran from pillar to post trying to obtain parole for Sandhu so he could perform her last rites. The district judge, whom the family approached first, allegedly said the matter was administrative, not judicial, in nature.
The district magistrate, Agra City, to whom the family was referred, allegedly said he had the authority to give parole only to convicts, not undertrials.
Sandhu’s sister Sonika, an assistant professor at the Dayal Bagh institute, said her brother’s co-accused Swaroop had been granted parole on eight occasions to write his final year exams.
“If (Swaroop’s) education is his fundamental right, how is it that lighting one’s wife’s funeral pyre is not a man’s right? She (Preeti) fought till the end and waited for him to come to her before she was set free,” Sonika said.
Preeti was admitted to a private hospital in Agra with very high fever on December 31. She died on January 4 following cerebral infarction, a doctor who attended on her said.
The body was placed on slabs of ice that were changed every day, as the family begged district authorities for Sandhu’s parole, said neighbours.
“My son is innocent. Preeti kept saying till her last breath that he was at home with her at the time of the murder. The police simply picked him up and refused to produce any evidence. They did not even come to our house to trace the murder weapon, or the clothes that they claimed Yashveer was wearing at the time,” Gyanvati, Sandhu’s 72-year-old mother, said.
Sandhu was the only earning member of the family. For the last four days, neighbours said, his younger son Suhavan, who is all of one and a half years old, has been periodically tapping on the glass of his mother’s coffin, seemingly willing her to wake. The family assured him she was asleep.
“I can’t believe the administration can be so cruel. Where is the evidence against my brother?” Sonika said. “The CBI doesn’t tell us anything.”
A CBI spokesperson said, “The case is under investigation. No one has been given a clean chit yet.”