The death sentence for former Youth Congress leader Sushil Sharma in the 1995 Naina Sahni murder case popularly known as the tandoor case was commuted to life imprisonment by the Supreme Court on Tuesday. The apex court said Sharma was neither a threat to society nor was the possibility of his reformation permanently closed.
While upholding Sharmas conviction for killing his wife Naina over suspected infidelity and his extreme possessiveness,a bench of Chief Justice
P Sathasivam and Justices Ranjana P Desai and Ranjan Gogoi said various mitigating circumstances persuaded the court to commute the sentence to a life term.
Murder was the outcome of strained personal relationship. It was not an offence against the society. The appellant (Sharma) has no criminal antecedents. He is not a confirmed criminal… It is,therefore,not possible in the facts of the case to say that there is no chance of the appellant being reformed and rehabilitated, the bench said.
The case had made headlines when on the intervening night of July 2-3,1995,the dismembered body of Naina was discovered propped up inside a flaming tandoor in a New Delhi restaurant. Naina had a fatal gunshot wound. After the incident,Sharma had travelled to Jaipur,from there to Bombay,then to Madras and thereafter to Bangalore,where he was arrested on July 10,1995. Due to the grisly nature of the crime,which Sharma claimed he did not commit,the trial court sentenced him to death in 2003. It was upheld by the Delhi High Court in 2007.
The apex court held that there was enough evidence to prove his culpability in the commission of the crime but differed with the lower courts on the quantum of sentence. It noted Sharmas love for his wife and his desire to lead a happy married life,which the bench said,could not happen due to Nainas suspected infidelity.
The evidence on record shows that the appellant suspected her fidelity and the murder was the result of this possessiveness. We have noted that when the appellant was taken to Lady Hardinge mortuary and when the body was shown to him,he started weeping. It would be difficult,therefore,to say that he was remorseless, the court said.
It also dismissed the prosecutions plea that Sharma was in a dominant position in the marriage and,therefore,his crime was an extraordinary offence,warranting nothing but a death sentence.
The deceased was a qualified pilot and she was also the State General Secretary of Youth Congress (Girls Wing),Delhi. She was an independent lady,who was capable of taking her own decisions. From the evidence on record,it cannot be said that she was not in touch with people residing outside the four walls of her house. She was not a poor,illiterate,hapless woman, it said.
The bench further noted that Sharma had spent 10 years in the death cell and that the brutality alone would not justify death sentence in this case.
It also said there was no medical evidence on record to establish that the body of the deceased was cut by Sharma or his accomplice. Though it may not be strictly relevant,we may mention that the appellant is the only son of his parents,who are old and infirm, the court said.