13 Years Long Shabnam Ali And Saleem Murder Case Looks Likely to Come to A Close
Shabnam Ali (38) made headlines for all wrong reasons 13 years ago. She could be the first Indian woman to be hanged till death in free India. In 2008, she along with her lover Saleem (36) were convicted for the gruesome murder of 7 of her family members including her 10-month old nephew.
Both are currently on a death row for the cold-blooded murder. Shabnam hails from Bawankhedi, Uttarpradesh and holds a double MA in English and Geography. People who knew her personally were shell-shocked hearing about the crime. She used to work as a government school teacher and was a favorite among her students. Her uncle Sattar Ali too found her to be a demure girl.
Shabnam and Saleem
Saleem is a class VI drop out who worked at a wood sawing unit and was considered a decent boy by the villagers. Tensions erupted in Shabnam’s family when they came to know about Shabnam’s relationship with Saleem. Shabnam’s family opposed their relationship because of his education qualification, socio-economic background and caste.
Shabnam belongs to the highly-regarded Saifi caste while Saleem is a Pathan. During the time of murder, she was 7 weeks pregnant with Saleem’s son, but other villagers including Saleem’s father weren’t aware about the couple’s relationship during the time of the crime.
The horrific night:
On the night of April 14th 2008 when Shabnam was in her mid-20s she used milk laced with sedatives and sedated six of her family members – her father Shaukat Ali (55), mother Hashmi (50), elder brother Anees (35), sister-in-law Anjum (25) and cousin Rabia (14).
She then held their head by their hair while Saleem slit their throats using an axe. She went on to choke her 10-month old nephew Arsh. With the entire family dead, she was the sole heir of their large bungalow. Her spree of familicide shook the nation.
Investigations after murder:
Shabnam raised alarm around 2 a.m. about the murder. Locals gathered after hearing her cries for help. The house was locked from inside. Shabnam opened the door crying and informed them about finding her family members murdered on the first floor. She also added she was sleeping on the terrace.
She claimed unknown assailants entered their home at night and committed the crime. Former Amroha SHO R.R. Gupta said that he was suspicious of the entire story since he didn’t find any signs of struggle in the crime scene. He felt it was an inside job.
The autopsy report and blood-stained clothes of Shabnam retrieved confirmed all doubts. There were 52 calls exchanged between Shabnam and Saleem on that night. The duo turned against each other in 2015. In her Section 313 statement Shabnam stated that Saleem entered the house through the roof with a knife and killed the rest of the family members when she was asleep.
Saleem stated that he went to her house only after she called him and that she confessed murdering her family members on his arrival. Saleem’s father Ahmed still believes his son doesn’t have anything to do with the murders since he was sleeping in his house on the fateful night.
After investigations both were arrested 5 days after the crime. Amroha sessions court sentenced them to death in 2010. Shabnam has been trying to avert the death sentence ever since. The Allahabad High Court upheld the decision in 2013 while the Supreme Court upheld the same in 2015. However, the Apex Court stayed the warrants within 10 days. On 2015 Shabnam’s son was sent to foster care following which she said she was worried about his son’s safety. She said those who killed her family over property dispute would now harm her son.
In September 2015, Shabnam appealed for a plea for mercy asking the court to take into consideration her responsibilities as a mother. The then President Pranab Mukherjee rejected the petition. A Supreme Court bench upheld the death sentence on 2020. However, there were still some unresolved legal remedies. According to Law, if multiple people have been granted death sentence during the same time, the execution can take place only after all the legal resources are exhausted.
Her lawyer informed media lately that they didn’t receive a death warrant yet. However, preparations to hang Shabnam started in Mathura jail (the only jail in the country where women can be hanged) on February 2021. They are fixing the structure of the gallows and orders have been for two hanging ropes from Buxar Central Jail, Bihar.
Shabnam was recently shifted to Bareilly jail this year after two guards leaked pictures of her with other inmates surfaced, which got the guards suspended. Some legal experts state that Shabnam has run out of legal resources while some say she still can file for a curative review petition. If the death sentence is finalized, UP-based executioner Pawan Jallad might carry out the execution.
Shabnam’s son and his plea:
Shabnam delivered her son, Taj Mohammed in jail in December 2008 while serving her sentence. He lived with her for few years in jail, but since women inmates aren’t allowed to keep children over 6 years with them in jail, he was transferred to foster care. Few years ago, he was adopted by Bulandshahr-based couple Usman Saifi and Vandhana. Usman was Shabnam’s college junior whose college fees Shabnam had paid once back then.
She also helped him with notes and stood up for him in few instances. He like everyone else couldn’t believe she committed the crime yet he wanted to repay her for her helpful deed. The couple is now foster parents of the boy and they can’t adopt him legally since adoption isn’t allowed in Islam.
On February 18th 2021, 12-year-old Taj raised an appeal to the President of India to forgive his mother. The court rejected his first plea, but that didn’t stop him from sending the second petition to the President. If the President decides to use one of his pardoning powers as per Article 72 of the Constitution, Shabnam would dodge death sentence and has a chance for second life.