Shabnam Ali, who’s on death row along with her lover Saleem after being convicted for killing seven members of her family with an axe, is set to become the first woman to be executed in independent India.
The death sentence of Shabnam, a native of Amroha in western UP, was upheld by the Supreme Court in January last year. The hanging is still on hold since the Amroha sessions court is yet to issue her death warrant, which consists of the hanging date and time.
Reports suggest prison officials had twice reminded the court about it – on March 6, 2020 and January 28, 2021. A senior official said Shabnam has exhausted her legal remedies and former President Pranab Mukherjee had in 2016 rejected her mercy plea. Her review plea was dismissed by the apex court.
However, according to some legal experts, Shabnam can still file another review petition and a curative petition on grounds that she wasn’t heard. She can also challenge the death warrant in the top court if one is issued against her.
The woman convict is likely to hanged at Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura jail, which is the only jail in the country to have provisions for hanging a woman convict. The prison authorities are already preparing for the hanging. Reports suggest Pawan Kumar, the hangman in the Delhi gangrape case, had recently visited the execution facility to check if it is in order.
Execution rooms for women and men are similar, except the fact that men convicts can’t be hanged in execution rooms marked for women convicts.
The shocking murder of the family members were executed by the duo on the intervening night of April 14-15, 2008. They had first sedated the seven members of her family, which included her 10-month-old nephew, and then killed them with an axe.
Behind the murders was the family’s objection to their relationship, primarily over their educational qualifications. Saleem is a Class VI dropout while Shabnam is a double post-graduate in English and Geography.
Saleem is now lodged at Naini Central Jail in Prayagraj. He reportedly slit the throats of the victims with an axe while Shabnam held them by the hair. Shabnam was then seven weeks pregnant and her son Taj, who is now 12 years old, is staying with her college junior-cum-foster parents, journalist Usman and his wife Suhina. According to jail manual, a woman inmate can’t keep children above six with them in jail.
In India, as many as 12 women are on death row, all belonging to “backward classes and religious minorities”, according to a 2016 report by National Law University, New Delhi.