The 12-year-old son of  death row convict Shabnam Ali has urged Indian President Ram Nath Kovind to curtail the death sentence of his mother by holding up a slate which states, “President Uncle, please forgive my mother Shabnam.” Shabnam is a death-row convict who is sentenced to death for taking the lives of seven of her family members which include a baby. Shabnam went on her murderous spree because her family stood against her relationship with her partner. The 12-year-old kid spoke to news reporters on Thursday where he sought respite from the President. “I love my mother. I have only one demand for President uncle, that he doesn’t let my mother be hanged,” he said.

The case of the first woman in post-independent India who’s likely to be hanged explained

Shabnam and her paramour Saleem are convicted of killing 7 family members in 2008 in Amroha. In a murderous rampage, Shabnam took the lives of his father Shaukat, mother Hashmi, brother Anees, sister-in-law Anjum, younger brother Rashid, cousin Rabia and even Anees’s 10-month-old baby, Arsh.

Shabnam lived in a small village in Hasanpur tehsil of Amroha in Uttar Pradesh. She belongs to the Saifi Muslim community and has earned post-graduate in 2 subjects: English and Geography. Thanks to her education, she also worked as a government school teacher.

Shabnam took Saleem as her partner and her family opposed their relationship. Saleem was a class 6 dropout who belonged to the Pathan community and worked at a wood sawing unit in the same region as Shabnam.

According to reports, on the night of April 14-15, Shabnam tranquilized all the six members of her family- except for the 10-month-old baby Arsh. Prosecution’s case state that Shabnam’s partner Saleem used an axe to chop their heads off as Shabnam held them by hair. Later, Shabnam also strangled her nephew Arsh.

An arrest was made just after 5 days of the crime. Later during the proceedings post their arrest, it was found out that Shabnam was pregnant with Saleem’s baby and she gave birth to their son in December the same year.

Aftermath of Shabnam’s atrocious crimes

An Amroha sessions court sentenced them both to death in 2010. The decision was upheld by the Allahabad High Court in 2013 and later, by India’s apex Supreme Court in 2015. However, within 10 days of the ruling, Supreme Court decided to stay the death warrants against the two criminals.

Later, the same year, Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik did not consider Shabnam’s mercy plea and rejected it in September. Shabnam sought mercy on the account of her responsibilities towards Mohammad Taj, her son. A year later, in August 2016, the then President Pranab Mukherjee also went on to reject her mercy petition.

Come 2020, the Supreme Court bench which was headed by Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde went on to upheld the death sentence.

Shabnam’s claim in the court of law

According to the defence, it was Shabnam who took to authorities about her family’s murder. The initial claim of defence was that unknown assailants barged into Shabnam’s home and ended up killing everyone.

However, during the course of the trial, Shabnam and Saleem became hostile towards each other. According to a Section 313 statement from Shabnam that came in the 2015 Supreme Court judgement, it was Saleem who entered Shabnam’s house with a knife, killed her family while she was asleep. Whereas Saleem on the other side claimed that he went to Shabnam’s house “only on the request” and when he reached, she had already killed everyone and confessed to Saleem about the killings.

Where does Shabnam stand currently?

35-year-old Shabnam has filed a fresh mercy plea, months after the Rampur jail sent a letter to the Amroha district court seeking a death warrant against her. The jail seeks the death warrant against her after the Supreme Court also rejected her mercy plea review petition in January last year.

What next?

Over the course of the trial, Shabnam has used almost every legal remedy in her hand. If the current President rejects her mercy plea, Shabnam will be the first woman in Independent India to be hanged for a crime.

There is only one Jail in India that has the provisions for hanging a female criminal for her crime. The jail is in Mathura. The hangman of the Mathura jail, Pawan Kumar, was recently quoted saying that he had been to the Mathura jail to assess if the execution room was in working order or not.