India prepares to execute first woman since independence for killing 7 family members
India’s prison authorities in the Uttar Pradesh state have started preparations for the hanging of a female inmate.
Shabnam Ali who is now 38 years old has been on death row for the last 11 years for killing seven members of her own family in April 2008.
This will be India’s first execution since the countries independence from the British in 1947.
In 2008 a court found Shabnam guilty of carrying out the murders with her lover, Saleem – a high school dropout who worked as a day labourer.
Shabnam and Saleem both wanted to get married but Shabnam’s family did not approve.
Because the two were upset and angry they decided to drug Shabnam’s father, mother, the two brothers and their wives. After they drugged the family the pair hacked them to death with an axe at their home in Amroha which is about 380km from the state capital of Lucknow.
The former primary school teacher, who was pregnant with Saleem’s child at the time, then strangled her 10-month-old nephew.
The death penalty was first issued by a lower court in Amroha in 2010 to both Shabnam and Saleen and later the states high court upheld the sentence.
The pair appealed the sentence to India’s Supreme Court in 2015 but that failed. Then in 2016 the president at the time Pranab Mukherjee rejected Shabnam’s “mercy petition”. Last January, the top court also dismissed her plea for a review of that rejection.
This week, local media quoted prison authorities from the district of Mathura, which is the only facility in the country tasked with handling the execution of female convicts, as saying that they were preparing to execute Shabnam. However, the date of the hanging was not confirmed as the Amroha court had not issued her death warrant.
“We have placed an order for the rope and are just waiting for a fresh death warrant to execute her by hanging,” a senior Mathura jail official said.
Local media have reported that authorities are now refurbishing the gallows as a very prolific hangman Pawan Jallad who gets a salary of $137 for his services, had inspected the 150-year-old facility and reported that it was too dilapidated due to decades of disuse.
Jallad had hanged convicted killers of the gang rape and murder of a medical student in New Delhi in 2012, this case outraged Indians and triggered mass protests.
Taj, who is Shabnam’s 12-year-old son has made a last attempt to save his mother from being hanged by appealing to President Ram Nath Kovind to review the mercy petition and pardon his mother.
Taj had been born in jail but now lives with foster parents.
Supreme Court lawyer Sarthak Chaturvedi told The Times of India newspaper that Shabnam still had some options of legal recourse open to her.
“Shabnam could still seek another judicial review of the petition in the Supreme Court. She could also file a curative petition,” he said.
The uncle of Shabnam has already told local media that he will not accept his niece’s body after she is hung.
“We were not at home when the carnage took place. When we went there at around 2am, there was blood all around and the bodies were cut up. The crime was unpardonable,” he said.
Since India’s independence in 1947, most executions have been carried out in Uttar Pradesh.
The country’s most populous state has executed a total of 354 people, with the next highest number being Haryana with 90, and Madhya Pradesh with 73 executions, according to statistics from the National Law University in Delhi.
In 2018, figures show that India’s had handed out 162 death sentences which is the most in nearly two decades.
This article was first published in the South China Morning Post.