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THE STORY OF SHABNAM: FIRST WOMAN WHO COULD BE HANGED TO DEATH IN INDEPENDENT INDIA.


Author: Vaibhav Kesarwani, III Year B.B.A.,LL.B from Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar.

Ever been in the dilemma of choosing between your love or your family? That’s what Shabnam had to go through, which gave rise to the horrific April 2008 familicide. After her family objected to her connection with Salim, Shabnam, along with her lover, murdered seven members of her family: her mother, father, two brothers, sister-in-law, cousin, and 10-month-old nephew. If executed, Shabnam will be the first woman to be hung for a crime in independent India.



Background of the case

Shabnam was a double MA in English and Geography and taught in the Amroha village’s primary school. Her family was the most educated family in the village, with her father being called, Masterji, and her eldest brother was an engineer in Jalandhar. On the other hand, Salim was a daily wage worker who worked outside Shabnam’s home in a wood sawing unit and was a Class VI dropout. They fell in love with each other and decided to get married, however, Shabnam’s family refused the marriage due to him, being from a different caste and not educated enough to look after Shabnam. There was a series of arguments in the house, and Shabnam was strictly told to stay away from Salim. This increased the hatred in Shabnam and her love towards her family which gave rise to one of the most brutal murder incidences in India.



On the 14th and 15th of April, 2008. the most heinous of killings took place at Bawankhedi, a village in the Hasanpur tehsil of Amroha in western Uttar Pradesh. On the night of incidence, Shabnam was with her 7 family members in her home. She offered them sedated milk which made them unconscious. Afterward, she along with Saleem who entered her house, slit the throats of six of her family members, namely, Shabnam’s father Shaukat Ali, 55, mother Hashmi, 50, elder brother Anees, 35, and wife Anjum, 25, younger brother Rashid, 22, and cousin Rabia, 14 and afterward, throttled her 10-month-old nephew to death.



When the police investigation started, she told them that on the night of the incident, she was sleeping on the balcony of her two-storeyed house, she heard some noise come downstairs and saw that her father along with other family members was strangled with blood. She informed the police that there was a burglary in her house and the robbers murdered them. However, in the incident scene the Amroha SHO R P Gupta, who was in charge of the case found empty strips of 10 Biopose, which acts as a sedative substance. Furthermore, she also informed that the bed on which the victims lay, were crumpled but not the way they would have been had the victims thrashed about while they were being attacked.



Afterward, a post mortem was done on the bodies, where it was found that the victims were sedated with the Biopose drug before their death. Beside the empty drug strip, the officer claimed to have collected blood-stained garments from Shabnam (she was wearing a different set of clothes when the first eyewitness arrived at the scene), as well as her phone and Saleem's SIM. He claims he then had Saleem "point out" the precise area in a nearby pond where he reportedly threw the axe after the killings, and he collected his blood-stained clothes and phone from his home. "I got the call records out, and that was the end of it," he added. Five days after the murder, Shabnam and Salim were arrested and were sent to Moradabad jail. When the unfortunate incident occurred, Shabnam was pregnant with her child, who was given birth in that jail in December 2008.



During their trial, the couple began to turn on one another. According to the Supreme Court decision, Shabnam claimed in her Section 313 statement that Saleem had entered the house through the roof with a knife and killed all of her family members while she was sleeping. Saleem, on the other hand, said that he went to the residence "simply on Shabnam's request" and that when he arrived, she confessed to killing the others.



With the pieces of evidence indicating that Shabnam and Salim were behind this unfortunate incident, the trial court sentence them to capital punishment after a long trial of 2 years and 3 months. The judgement was challenged in Allahabad High court, where it was also claimed that during her arrest, Shabnam was carrying a child in her womb, which she had given birth to in jail and would be orphaned if the appellants were hung. but the death sentence was upheld. They then visited the Supreme court, but the top court of the country too upheld the Death sentence and pronounced their decision in 2015. The reaction to this gruesome incident is such that, no one in the village where the incident happened, has kept their child's name “Shabnam”.



Where she would be hanged?

In Mathura Jail, a female hanging house was established 150 years ago, although no woman has been hung there since the country's independence. The only reference to this hanging room in India is the UP-Jail Manual, which lays out extensive rules for the execution of women on death row. Although the death warrant has not been issued, the Senior Jail Superintendent, stated that jail administration has begun planning for the hanging and that a rope order has been made. As soon as the death warrant is issued, Shabnam and Salim will be hung.



Pawan Kumar, a fourth-generation executioner who was the hangman for the Nirbhaya rapists at Tihar jail last year, has been charged with carrying out the death penalty. He has previously visited the execution room at the Mathura prison to assess the situation.




Conclusion

This case is crucial because it demonstrates that Indian culture still values equality. A person, regardless of gender, must face the repercussions of their conduct, regardless of who committed the crime, how they committed it, or why they did it. According to a SENIOR UP jail official, Shabnam has exhausted her legal options, with late President Pranab Mukherjee rejecting her compassion request in August 2016 and the Supreme Court dismissing her review case and maintaining the death penalty. However there are still some judicial remedies left with Shabnam like challenging the mercy petition in the Supreme court etc, furthermore, Salim also has some judicial remedies which have not been used yet, and therefore nothing can be said surely.