The Delhi High Court on Friday, December 21 ordered "forthwith" release of former youth Congress leader Sushil Kumar Sharma, serving a life term for the murder of his wife Naina Sahni in 1995. Sharma has already undergone over two decades of incarceration in the case. A bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal passed the order.
Now 56, Sharma had shot dead his wife in 1995, objecting to her alleged relationship with a male friend. He had then chopped her body into pieces and attempted to burn it in a restaurant oven.
Known as the Tandoor (oven) murder case, it is one of the landmark cases in India in which DNA evidence and a second autopsy were used to establish the guilt of the accused. The high court set aside and quashed the recommendations of the sentence review board (SRB) which had rejected Sharma's representation for pre-mature release.
It also set aside the "non-speaking affirmation" of SRB's recommendations by the Lieutenant Governor, who is the competent authority.
"We accordingly direct that the state shall release Sushil Sharma forthwith," the bench said.
The court had earlier issued a notice to the Delhi government and sought its stand on Sharma's plea seeking release from custody on the grounds that he has been jailed for over two decades, including the period of remission, and his continued incarceration was illegal.
Sharma, who is in prison since 1995, had contended that he has already undergone the maximum prescribed sentence as mandated under the SRB guidelines.
Advocate Amit Sahni, appearing for Sharma, had said that guidelines on premature release state that life convicts sentenced for a single offense are to be released after completion of 20 years of incarceration and those who had committed heinous crimes are to be granted the relief after 25 years.
Delhi government standing counsel (criminal) Rahul Mehra had said the LG, who is the competent authority to decide the pre-mature release of convicts, had accepted SRB recommendations not to release Sharma and all records were put before him.
In his petition, Sharma had said even though his case falls in the first category, he had also undergone 29 years of incarceration, with remission, and 23 years and six months, without remission.
Sharma had also contended that his conduct in prison and while out on parole has been "exemplary" and he has never misused his liberty.