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  • Writer's pictureREET PARIHAR

First Woman to be hanged: Shabnam Case

Shabnam v. State of U.P. (2015) 6 SCC 632.

written by: Reet Parihar

In 2008, Shabnam and Salim, the accused in the Amroha murder case, were held responsible for the deaths of seven Shabnam family members. As a result, a baby girl was strangled. The Sessions Court sentenced the couple to death in July 2010, and the High Court of Allahabad affirmed the decision in 2013. The Supreme Court also upheld the death penalty on May 15, 2015. In less than six days, the defendants received their death sentences. Because the prisoners had not used every available remedy, the Supreme Court later ordered the warrants to be illegal o n May 27, 2015.


• On the intervening night of 14-4-2008/15-4-2008, eight persons of the family were present at the residence of Master Shaukat Ali (the deceased father); besides himself; his wife Smt Hashmi (the deceased mother); their daughter Shabnam (the appellant-accused ); their younger son Rashid (the deceased younger brother); their minor niece Rabia (the deceased cousin); their elder son Aneesh Ahmad and his wife Anjum (the deceased couple) along with their 10-month-old son Arsh.

• At about 2.15 am the fateful night, upon hearing the cries of the appellant-accused Shabnam, their neighbour Lateef Ullah Khan (PW 1) along with other neighbours reached the house.

• PW, I entered the house and found Shabnam lying unconscious near the dead body of her deceased father, whose neck was cut and also discovered the dead body of the deceased younger brother a with slit throat.

• Further, in another room, PW 1 discovered the dead bodies of the deceased wife, the deceased couple and the deceased cousin lying in a pool of blood, with their respective necks cut.

• The dead body of a 10-month-old infant, Arsh, was also found between the dead bodies of his parents.

• Immediately thereafter, PW I raised an alarm gathered the neighbours and informed the investigating authorities of the incident.

• It is the case of the prosecution that the accused persons were involved in a love affair and an illicit physical relationship. While the appellant-accused Shabnam is the educated daughter of the deceased family, working as a Shikshamitra (teacher), the appellant-accused Saleem is an unemployed youth residing in the same village.

• It is established that the appellant-accused Shabnam was pregnant at the time of the commission of the instant gruesome murders.

• Upon completion of the investigation, the charge sheet was drawn and the appellantaccused was charged with the offence under section 302 read with section 34 IPC, further Shabnam was charged separately under Section 302 IPC.

• The post-mortem reports have indicated the cause of death of the deceased father, mother, younger brother, cousin and the couple as shock and haemorrhage due to antemortem injuries, namely, multiple incised wounds caused by a sharp-edged weapon and a cut on the front of the neck. Further, inner-linings of the stomach of the deceased persons were recorded as red and swollen, concluding that intoxicating substances were ingested before death. The cause of death for the deceased infant was recorded as asphyxia and antemortem injuries caused using throttling and strangulation with the hand.


• The prosecution has put forth the motive for the commission of the offence to eliminate the appellant-accused Shabnam's family who was vehemently opposed to their relationship and secures the entire property of the family creating financial security for themselves.

• In their defence, the appellant-accused has denied the charges against them and pleaded false implication. They have sought to implicate each other in their defence. Appellantaccused Shabnam, in her Section 313 statement stated that Saleem had entered the house with a knife through the roof and killed all her family members while she was asleep alone on the roof. To the contrary, Saleem stated that he reached the house only at the request of Shabnam where she had confessed to the commission of a crime to him.

• The defendant claimed that there are no eyewitnesses and the case is only based on circumstantial pieces of evidence and therefore couldn’t be relied upon. The decision of the trial court The trial court found that the appellant-accused had devised a horrific murder scheme, which they had carried out by first knocking the family out by giving them sleeping pills through tea, administered by Shabnam, and then slicing their throats with an axe while they lay in a comatose state. The trial court concluded that the appellant-accused had become deranged due to the opposition to their illicit relationship. As a result, the trial court determined that the link in the chain of events, having been established and verified, unquestionably confirms the guilt of the appellant accused for the brutal murder of seven people, and consequently, found them guilty of the crime under Section 302 read with Section 34 IPC. In conclusion, has been recorded that the instant case falls in the category of "the rarest of the rare" requiring a punishment not less than the death penalty for the offence committed by the appellant-accused. Therefore, the trial court has sentenced the two appellants to death. The appeal in the High Court The appellant approached the HC in 2010 against the order for Death Penalty.

• The court examined that the aggravating circumstances would include the diabolical and calculated nature of the crime which was committed after methodical planning.

• The subsequent conduct of accused Shabnam in removing all signs of the crime, by changing her clothes, removing any signs, fingerprints, etc.

• raising an alarm for help and thereafter pretending to be unconscious for creating the impression that some outsiders had committed this crime. all indicate the cold-blooded planning before, during and after the commission of the crime."

• Killing the 10-month-old child added more cruelty to the act.

• High court also reaffirmed the criminal mind of the accused after examining the evidence.

• Since the accused was pregnant the HC said that "Shabnam's pregnancy and subsequent delivery of the child, no ground for a reduced sentence. It was also contended that Shabnam was carrying a child in her womb whom she has delivered in jail and who would be orphaned if the appellants are executed. In most murder cases the accused have minor children, aged parents or a spouse who would be bereaved if the convict is executed. This according to the Supreme Court in Sevaka Perumal v. State of TN 1991 3 SCC 471 cannot provide a legitimate reason for not awarding the death penalty if the case is one. where looking to the heinous nature of the crime and the criminal a death penalty is the only appropriate sentence."

• HC also put the case in the category of the rarest of the rare cases and upheld the death penalty awarded by the trial court in 2013. Principle The principles laid down by this Court in Jagmohan Singh y, State Of U.P , Bachan Singh v. State Of Punjab , and Machhi Singh v State of Punjab , as followed by this Court up to the present. The aforesaid decisions indicate that the most significant aspect of sentencing policy in Indian criminal jurisprudence regarding the ward of the death penalty is that the life sentence is a rule and the death sentence is an exception only to be awarded in "the rarest of rare cases", Death sentence must be imposed only when life imprisonment appears to be altogether inadequate punishment having regard to the relevant circumstances of the crime, and provided the option to impose a sentence of imprisonment for life cannot be conscientiously exercised having regard to the nature and circumstances of the crime and all the relevant circumstances. Life imprisonment is a rule and death sentences are an exception. The appellant-accused persons' preparedness, active involvement, scheming execution and subsequent conduct reeks of calculated and motivated murders. The act of slaughtering a ten-month-old child by strangulation by no chance reflects immature action but evidence of a lack of remorse, kindness and humanity. The crime is committed most cruelly and inhumanly which is extremely brutal, grotesque, diabolical and revolting. An appeal in the Supreme court

• The Judgment of the High Court was challenged in this Court and on 15.05.2015, the appeals of the convicts were dismissed by this Court as well, thereby confirming the conviction as well as the sentence of death imposed on them.

• Writ petitions are filed on the allegations that on 21.05.2015, death warrants have been issued by the learned Sessions Judge, which are impermissible since various remedies which are available to the convicts, even after the dismissal of the appeals by this Court, are still open and yet to be exercised by them.

• Can file review petition seeking review of the judgment dated 15.05.2015. The review petition was dismissed on the same mentioned grounds however she has not exhausted all her remedies. • They also have the right to file mercy petitions to the Governor of Uttar Pradesh and the President of India. In these circumstances, the execution of the death warrants within six days of the dismissal of the Criminal Appeals is challenged as illegal and contrary to the provisions of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

• The court's order for capital penalty execution, on the other hand, openly ignored the convicts' entitlement to file a review petition and request mercy from the Governor for commuting of the sentence. The order issued by the Session Court was rushed through without waiting for the convicts to exhaust their legal options.

• The Supreme Court referenced the case of Mohd. Arif v. Supreme Court of India, in which the court declared that every review petition submitted by death row inmates for a review of their execution sentencing must be reviewed by a three-judge bench in open court. According to Order VI, Rule 3 of the Supreme Court Rules, 2013, cases where a death sentence has been upheld by the High Courts and an appeal has been filed in the apex court shall be heard by a bench of at least three judges.

• The apex court, after quashing the death warrant issued by the Session Court, issued an order declaring that no criminal can be executed before all legal options open to them have been exhausted within the time limit. After the order, both accused persons filed a review petition. The bench emphasised the duo's death of a newborn as an example of good behaviour. The bench stated that the court's mission is to serve society and that a felon cannot be forgiven just because of his or her exemplary behaviour with other criminals.

• The bench went on to say that while every criminal is supposed to have a good heart, that does not excuse his unlawful behaviour. The crime committed by the perpetrator must also be taken into account.

• The bench held that the finality of the death sentence is very important and one can’t go on fighting endlessly for everything. Procedure to award death sentence in Deena v. Union of India. This quadruple test is:

(i) The act of execution should be as quick and simple as possible and free from anything that unnecessarily sharpens the poignancy of the prisoner's apprehension.

(ii) The act of the execution should produce immediate unconsciousness passing quickly into death .

(iii) It should be decent.

(iv) It should not involve mutilation. Present status Fresh mercy petition to Uttar Pradesh governor Anandiben Patel and the President of India Ram Nath Kovind. The apex court has decided to provide the accused all the chances to avail all the remedies in their judgement


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