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‘Tandoor killer no threat to society’

The Supreme Court on Tuesday commuted the death sentence of former Youth Congress leader Sushil Sharma, given death by high court for murdering his wife Naina Sahni, also a Youth Congress leader, and burning her body in a tandoor. The incident became infamous as the Tandoor murder case and rattled national conscience by its sheer brutality. The court said the sentence is for whole life subject to the remission granted by the government under relevant provisions.

A bench comprising of Chief Justice P Sathasivam, Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and Justice Ranjan Gogoi said that murder was the outcome of Sharma’s strained personal relationship, it was not an offence against the society and Sharma has no criminal antecedents. The court noted that it appeared that Sharma was extremely possessive of Sahni and the evidence on record showed he suspected her fidelity and the murder was the result of this possessiveness.

‘He is not a confirmed criminal and no evidence is led by the state to indicate that he is likely to revert to such crimes in future. 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. We do not think that that option is closed,’ said the court.

The court noted mitigating factors like no family members of Sahni deposed against him, he was remorseful after the death of his wife (when taken to Lady Hardinge mortuary and shown the dead body, he had wept) and he cannot be considered a threat to society.

‘Undoubtedly, the offence is brutal but the brutality alone would not justify death sentence in this case and the mitigating circumstances persuade us to commute the death sentence to life imprisonment,’ said the bench.

Sharma was awarded death sentence in the murder case by the trial court and the Delhi high court had also confirmed the death sentence to him. Sharma was convicted for murdering his wife Sahni on the suspicion that she was having an extra-marital affair. He tried burning her body in a clay oven of the Bagiya restaurant of then government-owned hotel Ashok Yatri Niwas. The gruesome murder had taken place on the intervening night of 2-3 July 1995.
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