Convicted in Murder Case, Shabnam Could Be 1st Woman to Be Hanged 

In 2008, Shabnam and her lover Saleem had axed seven of her family members who opposed their relationship.

3 min read
In 2008, Shabnam and her lover Saleem had axed seven of her family members who opposed their relationship.

For nearly a year, a prison in Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura has been preparing itself for a rather difficult task that no one has undertaken in the history of independent India.

Given the impunity with which the criminally powerful and powerfully criminal often roam about without the fear of the law, the layman could be forgiven for wondering if officials at the correction place are spending sleepless nights – made worse by the inching summer – in anticipation of a corrupt politician.

But, no, it’s not a politician.

Rather, the Mathura prison – the only one in the country, which has arrangements in place to hang a female convict, is preparing for one Shabnam, who, if hanged, would become the first female to gown the gallows. 

Reports say that Pawan Kumar, the hangman of four convicts in the 2016 nirbhaya gangrape case, has already visited the jail to see if all things were in place.

Who is Shabnam?

Employed as a government school teacher in Hasanpur Tehsil of Uttar Pradesh’s Amroha district, Shabnam had fallen in love with a man named Saleem, who resided in the same village of Bawankhedi.

But their relationship did not have the approval of Shabnam’s family – she had a post-graduate degree in English and Geography, while Saleem was a Class 6 dropout, who worked at a wood sawing unit nearby.

Making matters worse for the two was the stature of Shabnam’s Saifi Muslim family, as opposed to the Pathan Saleem. Finding no other way, the two hatched a sinister plan to eliminate all thorns in the path to them being together.

What is Shabnam’s offence?

In 2008, Shabnam and Saleem killed seven members of her family, including both her parents, her elder brother, his wife and their 10-month old son, her younger brother and a teenage cousin.

According to reports, Shabnam first sedated all her family members except the toddler and waited for them to fall unconscious. Once the family members lost consciousness, Saleem severed their heads off with an axe, while Shabnam held them all by their hair, for better cut.

The 10-month old was throttled to death by the duo, who were all but of 20 that time. When the murderous couple was arrested five days later, Shabnam had been seven weeks into pregnancy.

What did the courts say? Did she file for mercy petition?

  • In 2010, both Shabnam and Saleem were sentenced to death by an Amroha court, which was upheld by Allahabad High Court and the Supreme Court in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
  • In September 2015, Ram Naik, the then governor of Uttar Pradesh, rejected the mercy petition filed by Shabnam. She had requested for pardon claiming that she had to take care of her son.
  • A year later, her mercy petition was denied by President Pranab Mukherjee in August 2016.
  • In January 2020, the sentence was upheld by a bench led by the Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde.

What Did Shabnam and Saleem say in their defence?

Following the murder, it was Shabnam who had raised an alarm and said that unknown assailants had entered her home and killed seven of her family members.

But the couple, who are housed in jails that are kilometres apart, soon started to grow apart.

Later, she changed her statement and said that it was Saleem who jumped through the roof of her home and murdered all family members, while she was asleep.

Saleem, on the other hand, claimed that Shabnam had called him to her house, and that she had already killed her family members before he could reach.

Where is Shabnam’s son?

In December 2008, Shabnam gave birth to a son at the Moradabad jail. However, when the boy turned six, the Child Welfare Committee in Amroha handed him over to foster care.

In February 2021, Shabnam’s son, who is now 12-years-old, appealed to the President of India to forgive his mother. In a viral video, the young boy can be seen holding a placard that reads, “President uncle, please forgive my mother Shabnam”.

His foster parents told the Times of India that the 12-year-old had broken down after hearing that his mother, now 38, could be hanged.

(With inputs from The Indian Express and The Times of India.)

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