New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday discarded the contention of the police that the death sentence awarded to former Youth Congress leader Sushil Sharma should be retained as he shot dead and burnt the body of a helpless woman, his wife Naina Sahni, saying she was "not hapless".
A bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam said Sharma was not in a "dominant position" with regard to his wife who was a qualified pilot and an independent lady capable of taking her own decisions.
"The appellant (Sharma) was the state President of the Youth Congress in Delhi. The deceased was a qualified pilot and she was also the state General Secretary of Youth Congress (Girls Wing), Delhi. She was an independent lady who was capable of taking her own decisions. From the evidence on record, it cannot be said that she was not in touch with people residing outside the four walls of her house.
"She was not a poor illiterate hapless woman. Considering the social status of the deceased, it would be difficult to come to the conclusion that the appellant was in a dominant position qua her," the bench said.
The observations were made by the apex court while commuting to life imprisonment the death sentence awarded to Sharma by a trial court in 2003 and upheld by the Delhi High Court in 2007.
On the intervening night of July 2-3, 1995, Sharma had shot dead Naina, suspecting her of having an affair, and then tried to destroy evidence by burning her body in the `tandoor` of his restaurant Bagia, the court noted in its verdict.
After the incident Sharma had travelled from Delhi to Jaipur, from there to Bombay, then to Madras and thereafter to Bangalore where he was arrested on July 10, 1995, the court noted.
The bench, while reducing his punishment, noted Sharma was "deeply in love" with the victim, was "possessive" about her and the murder was "a result of this possessiveness" as well as his suspicions about her fidelity.
It also noted that it cannot be said that Sharma was remorseless as he had wept when shown his wife`s body.