Shakereh Khaleeli

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Shakereh Khaleeli
Born August 27, 1947
Bangalore, Karnataka
Died April 28, 1991(1991-04-28)
Bangalore, Karnataka
Nationality India
Spouse(s) Akbar Mirza Khaleeli (m. 1965–84)
Children Zeebundeh Khaleeli
Sabah Bakache
Rehane Yavar Dhala
Essmath Khaleeli
Parent(s) Ghulam Hussain Namazie (father)
Gauhar Taj Begum (mother)

Shakereh Namazie (born August 27, 1947 - missing April 1991 - declared deceased May 1994 when her body was exhumed) was the victim of a particularly grisly murder. Born into an affluent, aristocratic Bangalore-based Muslim family, Shakereh was sedated and buried alive in a casket by her second husband. Her remains were exhumed more than three years after her disappearance from the courtyard of her spacious bungalow on Bangalore's elite Richmond road. She had woken from her unconscious state and gnawed at the inside of the casket before her death.

Family and background[edit]

Shakereh was born into an aristocratic Indian Muslim family with roots in Karnataka, south India. She was the daughter of Gulam Hussain Namazie by his wife Gauhar Taj Begum, the youngest daughter of Sir Mirza Ismail, sometime Diwan of Mysore and later Jaipur.

In 1965, aged 18, Shakereh was married to Akbar Mirza Khaleeli, a man of her own community and similar background, in a match arranged by their parents in the usual Indian manner. Akbar Mirza Khaleeli, who was a distant kinsman, came from an educated and affluent family. He later passed the Indian Civil Service examination and was accepted into the elite Indian Foreign Service. His flair for languages and grasp on cultural issues, among other talents, made him a successful diplomat and he went on to serve as Indian Ambassador to Iran and Italy and High Commissioner to Australia. Shakereh was at his side through most of his career. The couple became the parents of four daughters, namely Zeebundeh Khaleeli, Sabah Bakache, Rehane Yavar Dhala and Essmath Khaleeli.

Murder[edit]

In 1991, Sabah, Shakereh's second daughter, found that she was unable to locate her mother. Despite repeated requests about Shakereh's whereabouts to her mother's second husband Murali Manohar Mishra, also known as Swami Shradhananda, he consistently avoided giving a proper answer. In 1992, Sabah's anxiety grew and she filed for a habeas corpus at the Ashok Nagar Police Station in Bangalore, Karnataka. For three years, the Swami evaded questions from the family, friends and legal authorities of the state. He lived in Bangalore like a king, pretending his wife was on a perpetual holiday.

In May 1994, the police of Karnataka finally found Shakereh's body (rather skeletal remains) buried deep in the courtyard of her own house. Shakereh's murder was one of the most heinous crimes of Indian criminal history. When the murder was disclosed, it shook the nation.

Shakereh had been placed in the coffin-like box on April 28, 1991. She had been drugged asleep, placed on a mattress within the coffin-like box and covered with another mattress, suffocating her to death. She died unconscious, confined to a constricted space and buried by the man whom she trusted implicitly. When Shakereh's skeletal remains were recovered and the mattress was removed, one of her hands was found clutching the mattress which lay below her. The side of the box was scratched with her nails, perhaps in an attempt to get out, probably suffocating in the last pangs of breath.

Legal case[edit]

The Swami was taken into judicial custody after accepting the crime. The case also became an important milestone in the Indian judicial system as it was the first case where the exhumation process was recorded on video. The case was also the first time that DNA tests and videotapes of the exhumation were taken as evidence in India.

Trial court[edit]

On May 21, 2005 the Civil and Sessions Judge B.S. Totad sentenced Swami with a verdict of capital punishment. "He shall be hanged to death", the judge ordered. Shraddhananda betrayed no emotions as he stood in the dock, his head drooping as always. "From the facts and circumstances of the case, it is clear that the said murder has created such a fear in the minds of the family and in the community to live peacefully in society. There are no mitigating circumstances or factors to award a lesser punishment. After taking into consideration the facts and circumstances of the case and having regard to the nature of the methodology in committing the murder for gain, it is a fit case for capital punishment", the order read. "I am of the opinion that it falls under the bracket of the rarest of the rare cases and hence he be sentenced to death," the judge observed in the 300-page judgment. The judge directed the jail authorities not to execute the death sentence until they received confirmation from the high court.

High Court[edit]

In the high court, on September 12, 2005, a two bench judge composed of Justices S.R. Bannurmath and A.C. Kabbin awarded the death penalty to Shradananda. Terming it the "rarest of rare cases" in their order, the division bench composed of Justices S R Bannurmath and A C Kabbin, said: "The accused had murdered his wife in a diabolical and a well-planned scheme. As such, the death penalty imposed on him is liable to be confirmed. Anything less than a penalty of greatest severity for any serious crime is thought to be a measure of tolerance that is unwarranted and unwise. The sessions court is justified in awarding death penalty to the accused." Shraddhananda is a "menace to the society and beyond reform". In addition, Justices S.R. Bannurmath and A.C. Kabbin stated, "in our view, the death was not a violent act by a weapon or attack, but the act was more violent since the mind of such a scheming person can be dangerous." "A person who plans in a cool and cunning manner ought to be hanged as there is no chance of his reformation. Shakereh was a helpless woman, and her trust was broken," the bench said. "Such scheming persons cannot be reformed. His conduct before and after the crimes shows that it (murder) had been planned methodically and carried out coolly and mercilessly. He has killed a person who had implicit faith in him and buried her unceremoniously" the verdict said.

Supreme court[edit]

On February 18, 2006, Shradananda issued notice to the Karnataka Government on special leave petition (SLP) questioning the high court judgment in September 2005. The Supreme Court Bench of Justice Ashok Bhan and Justice Tarun Chatterjee, stayed the high court judgment, confirming the death sentence. On July 22, 2008, a life sentence for Shraddhananda was ordered by the Indian Supreme Court in New Delhi.

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