The Supreme Court commuted death sentence on Tuesday, of former Youth Congress leader Sushil Sharma to life imprisonment in the 1995 Naina Sahni murder case, popularly known as the 'tandoor' case.
A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice P Sathasivam held that the murder was an “outcome of an estranged personal relationship” and Sharma's chances of reformation could not be completely ruled out. The bench, also comprising Justices Ranjana P Desai and Ranjan Gogoi said that brutality of the murder or the subsequent attempt to destroy the evidence would alone be not sufficient to uphold death sentence for Sharma and that he could still be reformed and rehabilitated. The bench noted that it was 'difficult to say that the appellant (Sharma) was remorseless' after the murder. The court however also clarified that life term would mean imprisonment for life. During the final arguments, Sharma's counsel Jaspal Singh had said the case did not fall in the rarest of rare category warranting capital punishment.
He submitted that the conviction was entirely based on the circumstantial evidence and that death penalty cannot be awarded to Sharma.
However, the prosecution said the case falls in the category of the rarest of rare and the trial court and the Delhi High Court were justified in awarding the death sentence.
The arguments in SC had commenced five years after Sharma filed an appeal against the Delhi High Court judgment confirming the conviction and death penalty awarded to him for murdering his wife Naina on suspicion that she was having an extra-marital affair.
The trial court had on November 7, 2003, sentenced sharma to death for killing his wife at their residence in Gole Market area in Central Delhi on the intervening night of July 2-3, 1995 and disposing of her body by burning it in a tandoor .
In his petition filed in 2007, Sharma contended that the High Court had erroneously concluded that the offence committed by him falls under the rarest of rare category, warranting capital punishment.
The high court had on February 19, 2007, confirmed the death penalty awarded to him