Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: In a major ruling, the Supreme Court on Tuesday commuted death sentence given to former Youth Congress leader Sushil Sharma - convicted of murdering his wife and trying to burn her body in a tandoor in 1995 - to life imprisonment.
The fate of Sharma was decided by a bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam, which had reserved its verdict on August 13.
The apex court bench, while passing the verdict, said Sharma had no criminal antecedents and there is possibility of his reformation.
"It is not a crime against society but a crime committed due to (Sharma`s) strained relationship with his wife," the top court said, adding that the murder did not fall in the category of rarest of rare crimes.
After the apex court verdict, Sharma, who has spent almost 18 years in jail, can be released if the Delhi government grants him remission.
The jailed former Youth Congress leader Sushil Sharma had challenged his conviction and death sentence given to him for murdering his wife Naina Sahni in 1995 and then disposing of her body by burning it in a tandoor.
During the previous hearing in the infamous `tandoor` case, Sharma`s counsel pleaded the case did not fall in the rarest of rare category warranting capital punishment.
Sharma had submitted the conviction was entirely based on the circumstantial evidence and death penalty cannot be awarded to the convict.
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 death sentence.
The arguments before the bench had commenced five years after Sharma filed the appeal against the Delhi High Court judgement confirming the conviction and death penalty awarded to him for murdering his wife Naina on suspicion that she was having an extra-marital affair.
A trial court had on November 7, 2003 convicted Sharma of shooting his wife Naina Sahani on July 2, 1995, in a fit of rage at their home in central Delhi, on the suspicion that she was having an affair.
Sharma and his friend were found guilty of chopping up the body and trying to burn it in a tandoor - or open oven - in a popular restaurant.
Sharma has in his petition filed in 2007 contended 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 by the trial court saying the offence was an act of extreme depravity that shook the conscience of the society.
It had held the reasoning given by the trial court for convicting and awarding death sentence to Sharma in the case was justified and he did not deserve any mercy for the gruesome killing.
The high court had rejected the mercy plea of reducing the death sentence into life imprisonment for Sharma.
It had rejected his contention that the offence was committed on the spur of moment.
With PTI inputs