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Supreme Court stays death sentence in tandoor murder


New Delhi : The Supreme Court Monday stayed the death sentence awarded to former Youth Congress leader Sushil Sharma for murdering his wife Naina Sahni and disposing of her body in the ovens of a Delhi restaurant 12 years ago.

A bench of Justices S.B. Sinha and Markandey Katju temporarily stayed Sharma's capital punishment while admitting his appeal against the Feb 19 Delhi High Court verdict, which had upheld the trial court's death sentence in what came to be known as the tandoor murder case.

The bench referred Sharma's petition to a three-judge bench for an elaborate hearing on his plea.

Suspecting his live-in partner Naina, whom he claimed to be his wife, of fidelity, Sharma had in a fit of rage shot her dead at their residence in Gole Market in central Delhi on July 2, 1995.

He then cut her body into pieces, stuffed it into a gunny bag and took it the open-air Bagiya Restaurant inside the erstwhile Ashok Yatri Niwas hotel and tried to burn it in the tandoor with the help of his friend and restaurant manager Keshav Kumar, convicted for destroying the evidence and helping the accused.

Sharma was awarded the death sentence by Additional Sessions Judge G.P. Thareja Nov 7, 2003. He challenged the trial court's order in the high court, which ratified the death sentence imposed upon him.

Upholding the trial court verdict, the high court had ruled that the accused "did not deserve any leniency for murdering his wife as he did not merely commit the crime but tried to dispose the victim's body parts in a most diabolical manner.

"The act of Sharma is so abhorrent and dastardly that in case death penalty is not awarded to him, it would be a mockery of justice and the conscience of the society at large would be shocked," the bench stated.

This was surely a case, which fell within the category of "rarest of rare cases" in which no other punishment except the death penalty would be justified, the judges said.