Tandoor murder case: When a Congress leader killed his wife, stuffed her body in a tandoor and set it on fire

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The gruesome Shraddha Walkar murder case in the national capital wherein the victim Shraddha Walkar was strangulated by her live-in partner Aftab Amin Poonawala, her body was chopped into 36 pieces that were stored in a 300-liter fridge and later dispersed at various locations in Delhi had sent shockwaves across the country with horrific details emerging every day. With this horrific murder, one is reminded of the infamous Tandoor murder case, another horrific murder that dates back to July 2, 1995, wherein the half-burnt body of Naina Sahni, a Congress worker, was found in a Tandoor of a restaurant.

Naina Sahni, apart from being a Congress worker, had obtained a pilot’s license and also ran a boutique. Naina Sahni was shot dead by her husband Sushil Sharma, a Congress leader and Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) back then, over the suspicion of Naina having an extramarital affair with Matloob Karim, her school-time friend, ex-boyfriend, and a co-worker-at the Congress party. Naina had been planning to leave Sushil and move to Australia. Sushil and Naina were having frequent confrontations over her alleged extramarital affair coupled with her decision to leave him and move abroad.

On the night of July 2, 1995, Sushil returned to his flat in Gole Market and saw Naina consuming liquor and talking on the phone. When Naina noticed Sushil, she hung up. Sushil reportedly, dialed back to find Matloob on the other end. Enraged by this, Sushil shot Naina dead with a revolver.

Police had back then claimed that Naina’s body was dragged down from the second-floor flat. Sharma had initially considered dumping his wife’s body in the Yamuna river after shooting her. However, he came up with another plan after finding traffic on the ITO bridge.

The horrific details of how Naina Sahni’s dead body was disposed of in the ‘tandoor’

Sharma decided to burn the body in the tandoor, or clay oven, of Bagiya Bar-Be-Que restaurant in Hotel Ashok Yatri Niwas after trying to dispose of it in the Yamuna river. Sushil arrived at the restaurant in his Maruti car. The manager of the Bagiya barbecue restaurant, Keshav Kumar, was then informed of the crime by Sushil Sharma. Kumar closed the eatery and sent the staff home at Sharma’s request. The victim’s body, wood, and party literature were then used to build a pyre over the tandoor by Sharma and Kumar.

Police Constable Ahmed Nazir Kunju, who was on night-patrolling duty on July 2, had inquired about the fire. The Congress leader had told constable Kunju that he along with Keshav were burning old election posters. Following this, Kunju left the spot, however, after hearing a loud cry of a vegetable vendor woman nearby shouting ‘fire’, Kunju returned by jumping the hotel wall and saw Sushil and Keshav fanning an unusually huge fire over the tandoor. Constable Kunju and SI Rajesh Kumar noticed a pungent smell emerging from the tandoor.

As they stepped nearer and noticed what appeared to be a human torso protruding from the tandoor. They then doused the fire after noticing a charred body. A black polythene sheet was also seen inside the clay oven. Keshav Kumar, the manager of Bagiya, was nabbed right away, but Sharma managed to escape before more cops arrived.

Autopsy reports

According to the initial autopsy report, Naina died from “excessive bleeding” and was most likely unconscious when she was dismembered. She had alcohol in her stomach, the report stated. The Delhi Police had requested a second, more thorough autopsy after being dissatisfied with the initial post-mortem, which failed to determine whether her body was cut into pieces before or after she died.

Following this, a second autopsy was conducted and the report revealed that Naina had been shot twice, profoundly refuting the findings of the first report. During the second autopsy, doctors took an X-ray and detected evidence of two bullet wounds—one in the neck and one in the head. This was consistent with the police finding a .32 shell in the couple’s Gole Market apartment.

How Sushil Sharma mislead the investigation after he was arrested

Nine days after committing the horrendous crime, Sushil Sharma surrendered in Bangalore while police were conducting a manhunt to nab him. Initially, Sharma claimed that he had gone on pilgrimage and knew nothing about the murder saying that he went to Ajmer, Jaipur, and then Bombay. After the pilgrimage thing, Sharma blamed his political rival Maninderjit Singh Bitta for hatching a ‘political conspiracy’ against him.

From death sentence to ‘immediate release’

Ultimately, he admitted to murdering his wife. Sharma was given a death sentence by a trial court in 2003, and the Delhi High Court upheld it in 2007. The Supreme Court mitigated Sushil Sharma’s death sentence to life in prison on October 8, 2013.

Sushil Sharma, who had been convicted, was ordered immediately released by the Delhi High Court bench comprising Justices Siddarth Mridul and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal on December 21, 2018, after senior lawyer N Hariharan, who was representing Sharma, appealed to the high court on the grounds that Sharma had no prior criminal history and would shortly be 60. Sharma’s behavior in the Tihar jail had been satisfactory, Hariharan had added.

Maxwell Pereira who headed the Tandoor murder case investigation had authored a detailed account of the grotesque murder in his book titled ‘Tandoor Murder Case: The Crime That Shook This Nation And Brought A Government To Its Knees’.