| Sushil Sharma arrives at the Delhi court on Friday. (AFP)
New Delhi, Nov. 7: Sushil Sharma’s face turned red and his head stooped when a city court today sentenced him to death.
Treating the Naina Sahni murder case as “rarest of rare”, additional sessions judge G.P. Thareja said: “Accused Sushil shall be hanged by the neck till he is dead.”
Sharma’s accomplice in crime Keshav Kumar was handed seven years’ imprisonment.
“Profaning the dead body by burning in tandoor of a helpless and hapless woman, whom the convict exploited for his own political career, is an insult to womanhood. Sentence of death is the only appropriate sentence,” Thareja observed. The court said the death sentence would not be executed till Delhi High Court confirmed it.
On July 2, 1995, Sharma had shot live-in partner Sahni dead at their Mandir Marg home and burnt her body in the tandoor of Bagiya restaurant at Delhi’s Ashok Yatri Nivas hotel.
“A dead body in this country is respected by all. Everyone reveres the dead body on its last journey. By burning the dead body, the accused intended that Naina Sahni should go unwept, unsung and unheard,” Thareja observed in his 20-page order that was passed after two days of arguments on the sentence.
The packed Tis Hazari courtroom plunged into a deafening silence as Thareja turned the last page of the order at 3.30 this afternoon. “I respect the capital punishment,” Sharma said to repeated attempts at seeking his reaction as he was being escorted out of court.
Delhi police constables cordoned him off immediately after the sentence was pronounced. Their colleagues, armed with AK-47s, kept guard outside the courtroom and at the entry to the premises.
Kumar, however, will be released from Tihar jail as he has already spent over eight years behind bars -- a year more than his sentence. He said he would seek compensation for the extra time spent in prison.
“While awarding sentence to the accused Keshav, court is not only to see the individual personality of the accused but has also to keep the public interest of justice in mind and also that no other manager of any hotel or restaurant holding the status as that of the accused ever think of burning the dead body or committing the murder in the tandoor,” the judge said.
Kumar, the manager of Bagiya restaurant at the time of the murder, was convicted of destroying evidence by helping Sharma burn Sahni’s body.
Sharma, too, was given seven years’ rigorous imprisonment for destroying evidence and fined Rs 10,000.
The former Youth Congress president was also fined Rs 2,000 for the offence of murder. If he failed to pay up, he would have to undergo another year of rigorous imprisonment.
The court was unhappy with Sharma’s conduct during trial. “His conduct has also not been such as to justify any leniency in the matter,” Thareja said.
Earlier in the day, the court gave a last opportunity to amicus curiae P.K. Dham and Kumar’s counsel, V.K. Ohri, to submit whatever they had to before the verdict was announced.