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The Delhi High Court on Friday ordered that Sushil Sharma, who has spent the last 29 years in jail for the killing of his wife be set free forthwith.

Sharma was sentenced to life imprisonment for killing his wife in June 1995 and then trying to burn her body in a tandoor oven of a then government owned hotel in Central Delhi.

Exactly a week ago, in the case relating to the former Youth Congress leader, the HC had questioned the city government about why as to why he has not been released after having undergone 29 years of incarceration.

A bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal asked the Secretary, Home Department and Secretary of Law and Justice Department to be present with original records of Sharma’s application to the Sentence Review Board (SRB) for premature release and the reasons for rejecting it. Terming the issue as serious, the court issued a notice to the Delhi government and sought its stand on Sharma’s habeas corpus plea seeking release from custody in the case on the grounds that he has been jailed for 29 years, including the period of remission, and his continued incarceration was illegal.

The bench said that “life and liberty of any individual is of paramount consideration” and asked the Delhi government how someone can be kept in custody “indefinitely”.

In his plea, Sharma, in prison since 1995, has contended that he has already undergone the maximum prescribed sentence as mandated under the SRB guidelines. According to his plea, the guidelines on premature release state that life convicts sentenced for a single offence are to be released after completion of 20 years of incarceration and those who had committed heinous crimes are to be granted the relief after 25 years.

The petition has said even though Sharma’s case falls in the first category, he has also undergone 29 years of incarceration, with remission, and 23 years and six months, without remission. Sharma had shot dead his wife in 1995 objecting to her alleged relationship with a male friend. He had then chopped her body into pieces and attempted to burn it in a restaurant oven.

During the hearing today Senior Standing Counsel Rahul Mehra referred to SC judgment where commute the death sentence to life sentence  which means that life sentence will remain till end of Life, subject to the procedural checks. The bench pointed out that he is not any more a threat to society, somewhat that jail authorities have also vouched for. He has reformed and ready for assimilation in the society. The law secretary and minister does not interface with him on regular basis only a jail officer interact with him on regular basis.

Sharma argued that even the Supreme Court, while commuting his death sentence to life imprisonment, had held that he was not a confirmed criminal and there was no evidence to indicate that he was likely to commit such crimes in future.

He also said he needed to look after his parents, both over 80 and suffering from various ailments.

—India Legal Bureau

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