May,18,2015: Calling it an abhorrent crime of parricide shaking the Indian society's aspirations of an educated daughter as a caregiver more responsible than a son, the Supreme Court confirmed the death penalty of a young teacher and her lover for the murder of her aged parents and five other family members.
The case dealt with the multiple murders committed by Shabnam, a teacher in Uttar Pradesh, in 2008.
She had incapacitated her entire family by sedating them. Then had held their heads while her lover slit their throats, one after the other. The Supreme Court judgment quotes the prosecution saying that she strangled her 10-month-old nephew with her own hands. After the deed, she pretended to lie down unconscious near her dead father till the neighbours broke into the house.
The court confirmed that she wanted to do away with her family, who was opposed to her relationship, and keep the family property to herself. A trial court convicted and sentenced the duo to death in July 2008. The decision was upheld by the Allahabad High Court in April 2013.
In its recent judgment on their appeals, a Bench led by Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu said the fact that an educated teacher from a civilised family committed this crime and showed no remorse by itself makes it a 'rarest of rare' crime deserving the death penalty.
“Such a deed as parricide would be sufficiently appalling were the perpetrator and the victims are uneducated and backward, but it gains a ghastly illumination from the descent, moral upbringing, and elegant respectful living of the educated family where the father and daughter are both teachers,” Chief Justice Dattu said.
“Here is a case in which Shabnam, who has been brought up in an educated and independent environment by her family and was respectfully employed as a Shikshamitra (teacher) at the school, influenced by the love and lust of her paramour has committed this brutal parricide exterminating seven lives including that of an innocent child,” the judgment said.
Justifying its decision to uphold her death sentence, the apex court distinguished Shabnam's crime triggered intense indignation in the community as it shattered the modern Indian parents' faith that their educated daughter would care for them in their old age.
“The modern era, led by the dawn of education, no longer recognises the stereotype that a parent would want a son so that they have someone to look after them and support them in their old age. Now, in an educated and civilised society, a daughter plays a multifaceted and indispensible role in the family, especially towards her parents,” the court said.
The court said the accused “wrench the heart of our society where family is an institution of love and trust”. It concluded that the couple's cold-blooded depravity leaves little “little likelihood of reform”.