"The offence is brutal but the brutality alone would not justify death sentence in this case," the court said, adding that there still was a chance for reforming Sharma, who suspected his wife's fidelity and was possessive about her.
Upholding the conviction of Sushil Sharma, the apex court bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, Justice R.P. Desai and Justice Ranjan Gogoi said: "We commute the death sentence awarded to appellant - Sushil Sharma - to life sentence."
"We make it clear that life sentence is for the whole of remaining life of the appellant subject to the remission granted by the appropriate government...," the judges said.
"The murder was the outcome of strained personal relationship. It was not an offence against the society," the court said, adding that Sharma has spent more than 10 years in death cell.
"It was not an offence against the society. The appellant has no criminal antecedents. He is not a confirmed criminal and no evidence is led by the state to indicate that he is likely to revert to such crimes in future," the court said.
"It is, therefore, not possible in the facts of the case to say that there is no chance of the appellant being reformed and rehabilitated. We do not think that that option is closed," the court said.
Commuting the death sentence to life imprisonment, the court said: "Though it may not be strictly relevant, we may mention that the appellant is the only son of his parents, who are old and infirm. As of today, the appellant has spent more than 10 years in death cell."
Noting that Sharma's wife Naina Sahni was a qualified pilot and also the state general secretary of the Youth Congress (girls wing), the court said: "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," the court said, adding that the evidence disclosed that even on the date of the incident she had contacted an old friend and Youth Congress leader Matloob Karim.
The court said that though Sharma knew that Naina Sahni was "very close to Matloob Karim" yet he married her hoping that she would settle down with him and lead a happy life. The court noted that Sharma was "deeply in love" with Naina Sahni.
"The evidence on record establishes that they were living together and were married but unfortunately, it appears that the deceased was still in touch with...Matloob Karim. It appears that the appellant (Sushil Sharma) was extremely possessive of the deceased. The evidence on record shows that the appellant suspected her fidelity and the murder was the result of this possessiveness", the judgment said.
The court recounted the sequence of events leading to the murder of Naina Sahni and the attempt to dispose off her body by burning it in a tandoor of the Bagiya restaurant in a then government-owned hotel in central Delhi.
Dwelling on whether the dead body of Naina Sahni was cut, the court said: "The medical evidence does not establish that the dead body of the deceased was cut."
"The second post-mortem report states that no opinion could be given as to whether the dead body was cut as dislocation could be due to burning of the dead body. There is no recovery of any weapon like chopper which could suggest that the appellant (Sushil Sharma) had cut the dead body" before attempting to dispose it off in a tandoor, the court said.
--IANS (Posted on 08-10-2013)