Eighteen years after former Delhi Youth Congress chief Sushil Sharma killed his wife Naina Sahni and tried to burn off her remains in a tandoor, the Supreme Court on Tuesday commuted to life term the death sentence awarded to him in the sensational case that shook the country.
“Murder was the outcome of strained personal relationship. It was not an offence against society. The appellant has no criminal antecedents,” a bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam said, applying the principle of “life’s a rule, death an exception”.
The court, however, upheld Sharma’s conviction in the case and said he would spend rest of his life in jail unless granted remission. Finding him guilty, both the trial court and the Delhi high court had handed down death to Sharma.
Sharma shot Sahni, Delhi YC general secretary, dead in their Mandir Marg flat on July 2, 1995. He had found her busy talking on the phone when he came home. He redialled and found that Sahni was in touch with Matloob Karim, a YC activist she was in a relationship before marrying Sharma.
To destroy evidence, Sharma took the body to the then government –run Ashok Yatri Niwas in central Delhi, where he ran the Bagiya restaurant. He chopped the body and instructed his employee Keshav Kumar to burn the body in the “tandoor”, the prosecution said.
On seeing smoke, a nearby tea vendor raised an alarm, alerting a police constable and a Home Guard. A team from the Connaught Place police station later recovered Sahni’s burnt remains.
Sharma managed to flee the spot. He stayed with an IAS friend at Gujarat Bhawan and went to Jaipur the next day. From there, he went to Mumbai and later Chennai where he got anticipatory bail. A Delhi Police team caught with him in Bengaluru where he surrendered on July 10, 1995.
The court found no merit in Sharma’s appeal against the HC verdict and held he had a motive to kill his wife as he suspected her of infidelity.
“The deceased wanted the marriage to be made public. The appellant was reluctant to do so and was suspecting her fidelity. On account of this suspicion, he used to quarrel with her and beat her,” the court said.