First time in the history of independent India a woman will be hanged at Mathura jail. Shabnam Ali, aged 38, was convicted for the murder of seven members of her family – mother, father, two brothers, sister-in-law, cousin, and a 10-month-old nephew.
Shabnam belong to Bawankheri, a village situated about 20 kilometres from Amorha in Moradabad division of Uttar Pradesh. She was convicted along with her paramour Salim, were tried and awarded by all courts, up till the Supreme Court. Shabnam's mercy petition has also been rejected by the Governor and President and is mostly to be hanged soon once a death warrant is issued. Shabnam is currently behind bars in Rampur district jail, and Salim in Agra prison. The date is execution is yet to be fixed, and Shabnam's son has filed a mercy plea to President Ram Nath Kovind.
On the night of April 14th-15th, 2008, Shabnam served her family food laced with sedatives and slit their throats once they fell unconscious. She was seven weeks pregnant with Salim's child at the time. Shabnam initially pretended that her house had been attacked by ‘unidentified assailants'. However, she later confessed to abetting Salim in the crime and drugging her entire family before committing the crime.
Shabnam, a double M.A. in English and Geography, was a teacher at the village primary school. Salim, a class VI dropout, worked at the wood-sawing unit situated outside Shabnam's house. Shabnam's family members were averse towards her relationship with Salim as they both hailed from different socio-economic backgrounds and castes – Shabnam a Saifi Muslim, well-to-do landholders, and Salim a Pathan who worked as a daily wager.
Shabnam's uncle, Sattar Ali, expressed that she should be hanged on account of the brutally murdering her family members. He described her as a demure girl, ‘every bit the obedient daughter' and never expected her to be capable of such acts.
Both, Shabnam and Salim, were awarded the death sentence by the Sessions Court in Amroha. Shabnam appealed in the Allahabad High Court, that awarded them the death penalty to them. In 2015, the Supreme court also upheld the decision of the High Court, and dismissed her review petition last year in January. Further, she even sought a mercy petition addressed to the President of India, which was also rejected. She, however, has not yet exhausted all her judicial remedies.
Although the assailant has not received a death warrant, jailor Rakesh Kumar Verma stated that the prison administration has started preparations for the hanging in Mathura jail. Mathura district jail is in the only hanging house for women in the country. Pawan Jallad of Meerut, who was in-charge of the execution of the convicts of the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case, recommended a few modifications to the place in Mathura jail.
The Times of India interviewed the couple who adopted Shabnam and Salim's son – Usman Saifi and Vandana – based in Bulandshahr. Usman claims to be repaying her by taking care of her child as she had helped him with his college fees back when they were studying.
“I was shocked when I read about the murders and that Shabnam had been arrested for them. Had it not been for her, I would have had to drop out of college. The least I can do is look after her child.”
Incidentally, Usman and Vandana cannot adopt the child legally as Islam does not permit adoption. However, the continue to take care of him as his foster parents. Presently, Shabnam's son has filed a mercy plea addressing the President.
HISTORY OF THE MATHURA JAILHOUSE
The first female hanging house was built in Mathura about 150 years ago, but has never been used in the 74 years of independence. A woman from Lucknow, Ramshri, was sentenced to death back in April 6, 1998, however, her death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment eventually once she conceived a child while in jail.
Senior superintendent of Mathura jail, Shailendra Maitrey, confirmed that an order has been placed for a rope but claimed for the preparations to be ‘routine maintenance'. He denies having received any notice that Shabnam or any other woman convict is to be hanged in Mathura.
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