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Former Uttar Pradesh minister Amarmani Tripathi and his wife Madhumani Tripathi, who were convicted of the murder of 24-year-old Madhumita Shukla, were freed from prison on Friday, 25 August – 20 years after the poetess, who was seven months pregnant, was killed at her home in Lucknow.
The Uttar Pradesh government, as per its 2018 remission policy, recently ordered the premature release of 66-year-old Tripathi and his 61-year-old wife who have been serving life sentences since 2007 – even as they spent large parts of it at BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur, citing health issues.
Madhumita's sister Nidhi Shukla moved the Supreme Court challenging the remission order issued on Thursday, 24 August, but the top court refused to stay the Tripathi couple's release from Gorakhpur jail.
Who was Madhumita Shukla? Why was she murdered? How were the Tripathis involved – and why were they released prematurely? The Quint explains.
A Brief Timeline of the Case
The star of several 'kavi sammelans', Madhumita Shukla was a poetess from UP's Lakhimpur Kheri, who had been on the stage since she was a teenager. She was known to be a fiery performer who took on politicians and social issues alike.
On 9 May 2003, Madhumita, who was unmarried, was shot dead at close range by two persons at her two-room apartment in Lucknow's Paper Mill Colony. The young poetess was allegedly having an affair with Amarmani – a relationship he had vehemently denied during the murder investigation.
A four-time MLA by then, Amarmani had served as a minister in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governments of Kalyan Singh, Ram Prakash Gupta, and Rajnath Singh – from 1997 to 2000. In 2002-03, he was a minister in then Chief Minister Mayawati's cabinet.
The murder was initially investigated by the Mahanagar Police, who, based on the purported diary of the poetess and the statements of a witness, a domestic worker at Madhumita's residence, suspected Amarmani's involvement.
The domestic worker allegedly witnessed two men visiting Madhumita at her home – and later heard gunshots from the hall, where the poetess was lying in a pool of blood. The two men had run away by then, as per reports.
The police then got to know of her affair with Amarmani after discovering Madhumita's purported diary entries, which revealed that she first met 'Mantri ji' (Amarmani) in November 1999 and fell in love with his 'strongman' persona.
Madhumita's post-mortem examination revealed she was seven months pregnant. Her diary entires also suggested she had had two abortions prior to this.
Even as evidence piled up against Amarmani, he maintained that Madhumita was just an acquaintance. But in the meantime, the probe was transferred to the Central Investigation Department (CID) owing to mounting Opposition pressure on the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) government.
Mayawati was also forced to remove Amarmani – who was known to be her "right-hand man" – from her cabinet on 17 May 2003.
On 26 May 2003, the CID sent Madhumita's foetus for a paternity test – and on 4 September 2003, the results showed it matched with the DNA of Amarmani.
Both Amarmani and his wife Madhumani were arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which had taken over the probe from the CID.
The CBI stated that the strongman forced Madhumita to have an abortion – and when she didn't, his wife hatched a conspiracy to kill Madhumita, as per media reports. The latter also allegedly made phone calls that linked her to the murder.
In April-May 2007, Amarmani won the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections from jail, which he had contested from Lakshmipur constituency on a Samajwadi Party ticket.
A few months later, in October 2007, a Dehradun court sentenced both the husband, wife, and two others – Amarmani's nephew Rohit Chaturvedi and a contract killer Santosh Rai – to life imprisonment for Madhumita's murder. Later, the Nainital High Court as well as the Supreme Court upheld the sentences.
The case was tried outside Uttar Pradesh at the request of Madhumita's sister Nidhi Shukla, who sought a fair and speedy trial.
A Remission Policy – and the Actual Jail Term
The UP prisons administration department issued orders for the release of the couple based on the 2018 remission policy of the BJP-led government, which states that a person over the age of 60 serving a life sentence is eligible for remission, provided they complete 16 years in jail.
As per an India Today report, the couple were allowed remission for displaying 'good behaviour' and for maintaining 'peace'. While Amarmani had completed 18 years and seven months in jail, Madhumani served for 17 years and nine months, The Times of India reported.
However, Nidhi Shukla recently claimed that the couple spent "62 percent of their jail term outside of jail."
"I have been telling everyone this is going to happen... I have procured documents through an RTI (Right to Information) request and these clearly state that 62 percent of the jail term that the two are said to have served had been spent out of jail."Nidhi Shukla to PTI
The couple, in fact, spent years of their jail term in Gorakhpur's BRD Medical College, where they were being "treated" for various ailments, as per The Indian Express. The hospital has, more or less, been their home since 2012, the report said.
Amarmani and Madhumani also did not perform any labour while serving their life term and have not received any money as remuneration, TOI reported.
Tripathi Family: Politics & Controversies
On Saturday, 26 August – a day after the Tripathis were released – their son and former Independent MLA Aman Mani Tripathi said that the family's home turf, Nautanwa constituency (merged with Lakshmipur after delimitation) in Maharajganj district, was in a celebratory mood.
"Like Lord Ram's return to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile is celebrated as the festival of lights, a similar atmosphere prevails at Nautanwa in Maharajganj district," he said at a press conference, reported The Hindu.
He also described Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath as the family's "guardian."
"The chief minister is our guardian and guide. I regularly meet him and seek his blessings. Our relationship is not political, but like family," he said, according to the publication.
His parents' convictions apart, Aman Mani is not a stranger to controversy himself. In July 2015, his wife Sara Singh was found dead in mysterious circumstances in Firozabad.
Aman Mani claimed he and his wife were on their way to New Delhi when they met with an accident on National Highway 2 in Firozabad, as he was trying to "save a child on a bicycle."
Two years later, the CBI filed a chargesheet against Aman Mani stating that Sara's murder was "premeditated," and held him guilty of killing her by strangulation, terming the accident "fake".
The 32-year-old leader, who is currently out on bail in the case, said that the family has not decided on whether his father would return to politics, as per an IE report. "We haven't decided anything or thought anything so far. We are a political family," he said.