Reprieve for India 'tandoor murderer' Sushil Sharma

Sushil Sharma in 2003
Image caption Sushil Sharma said he killed his wife because he suspected her of having an affair

India's Supreme Court has commuted the death penalty of a former politician found guilty of murdering his wife and later trying to burn the body in the clay oven, or tandoor, of a restaurant.

Sushil Sharma, who has spent 18 years in jail, will have to spend the rest of his life in prison, the court said.

Sharma's sentence was commuted since he did not have "any criminal antecedents" before the crime, the judges said.

The grisly murder took place in July 1995.

Sharma shot dead his wife Naina Sahni and chopped her body into pieces as he suspected her of having an affair.

He was trying to burn the body in the tandoor of an upmarket city restaurant when thick smoke alerted policemen patrolling the area.

Sharma, who headed the youth wing of the Congress party, was arrested in the southern city of Bangalore a few days after the murder.

A Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam, ruled on Tuesday that "Sharma had no criminal antecedents and there is possibility of his reformation".

"It is not a crime against society but a crime committed due to his strained relationship with his wife," the court said and added that it did not fall in the category of "rarest of rare" crimes which warrant the death penalty.

A trial court had convicted Sharma in November 2003 and given him the death sentence.

In 2007, the Delhi high court had confirmed the death penalty saying his offence was "an act of extreme depravity that shook the conscience of the society".

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