| Shakereh’s daughter Esmath (left) and ex-husband Akbar Khaleeli at the high court. (PTI)
Bangalore, Sept. 19: Karnataka High Court today confirmed the death sentence of Swami Shraddhananda, a self-proclaimed godman, for burying alive his wife Shakereh to gain her wealth.
In a harshly-worded sentence, Justices S.R. Bannurmath and K.C. Kabbin said Shraddhananda was a “menace to the society” and beyond reform. The judges concurred with the prosecution that it was indeed a “rarest of rare” case and therefore the man deserved death penalty.
“In our view, the death was not a violent act by a weapon or attack, but the act was more violent since the mind of such a scheming person can be dangerous.”
“Such scheming persons cannot be reformed. His conduct before and after the crime shows that it (murder) had been planned methodically and carried out coolly and mercilessly. He has killed a person who had implicit faith in him and buried her unceremoniously,” the verdict said.
Shakereh was the granddaughter of the king of the erstwhile state of Mysore, Sir Mirza Ismail. She had first married Akbar Khaleeli, former high commissioner to Australia.
She met Shraddhananda, a high school dropout, when he came to work for the Khaleelis in Uttar Pradesh. He charmed Shakereh with claims about his special spiritual powers and promised her a son. In 1985, Shakereh divorced Khaleeli and married Shraddhananda in April 1986.
The case came into prominence when Shakereh was reported missing by her eldest daughter Sabah since March 1991. Police registered a case following a complaint from Sabah on June 1992. Two years later, Shraddhananda was taken into custody. Shakereh’s body was exhumed from a 100-foot pit dug under the porch of Khaleeli’s sprawling mansion here.
The prosecution proved that Shraddhananda had laced Shakereh’s tea with sedatives and buried her alive. He killed her after she resisted his plans to sell off the mansion.
On September 14, the high court held Shraddhananda guilty of slaying Shakereh. It rejected his appeal against the death penalty handed out by additional city civil and sessions judge B.S. Thotad on May 21.
The trial court had ordered that Shraddhananda be “hanged by the neck until death”.
Shakereh’s former husband Khaleeli and her youngest daughter Esmath turned emotional after hearing of the death sentence. “We are happy that justice is done,” Khaleeli said. Esmath was all praise for the prosecuti'nd the crime branch.