Death row convict, Shabnam to be India’s first woman to be hanged

Among the reports of the first potential woman to be hanged in 70 years, it becomes necessary to observe the trend pertaining to capital punishment in the country. Apparently, there are only 12 women on the death row according to a 2016 survey. However, as per the research data compiled by Project 39A of National Law University, Delhi, independent India has sent more than 750 men to the gallows with only 8 in the last two decades.

The Mathura District Jail in western Uttar Pradesh happens to be the only jail in the country where women can be hanged to death. The gallows in Mathura jail were in a very poor condition due to low maintenance as no woman has been hanged in free India. It is getting renovated and the maintenance work is on.

As the Mathura Jail prepares to execute her, Shabnam has recently become the subject of several debates for being the first potential female convict to be hanged after independence. She has currently filed her second mercy petition with Governor of Uttar Pradesh and President of India, Ramnath Kovind.

The case

Shabnam, a school teacher, and her lover Saleem were found guilty of sedating seven members of her family and thereafter, slitting their throats whilst in sleep on the night of 14 April 2008. Among the deceased was also a 10-month-old infant who was apparently strangled to death. She apparently committed these crimes after her lover Saleem was not accepted by her family.

After being sentenced to death by a Sessions Court in Amroha in July 2010, their death sentences were upheld by the Allahabad High Court in April 2013. Shabnam gave birth to a child in jail which the High Court refused to consider as a mitigating factor. The death sentence was also upheld by the Supreme Court in 2015. Their mercy petition was rejected by Rashtrapati Bhavan. Last year, a Supreme Court Bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde also turned down their review petitions, clearly underscoring that, “The devilry was with the desire to see that no legal heir except Shabnam remains alive. They wanted to grab the property of Shabnam’s parents who were against their marriage.”

Constitutional remedies

Shabnam’s lawyer, Advocate Shreya Rastogi, has maintained that there is absolutely no possibility of issuance of death warrants as she hasn’t availed all her legal remedies yet. She states that constitutional remedies such as the right to challenge the rejection of her mercy petition before the Allahabad High Court and Supreme Court as well as the right to file a curative petition in the Supreme Court against the decision on the review petition are yet to be exercised by her.

Recently, it was also reported that Shabnam’s son, Taj, has appealed to President Ramnath Kovind to commute the death sentence of his mother.

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