"The society expected him to get justice for the oppressed, but he killed his wife for dowry. He deserves no leniency," judge Ashok Kumar Vyas wrote in his order, giving the maximum punishment provisioned for each of the charge levelled against the convict, Tek Chandra Sharma.
The judge, while holding the lawyer guilty of demanding dowry ( IPC section 498 A) and causing the death of his wife while harassing her for dowry (IPC section 304 B), imposed an additional penalty of Rs 2 lakh on the convict. The amount would be paid to the deceased's parents.
Soon after the judge pronounced the order around midday, the 34-year-old lawyer was taken into custody by the city police and handed over to the jail authorities. Sharma is entitled to appeal against his conviction before a division bench of the high court within a month.
It was alleged that Sharma poisoned his wife Meenu Sharma at the couple's rented accommodation in Vaishali Nagar on October 17, 2003. The couple had been married for barely one-and-a-half years then.
Meenu's parents, who teach in separate government schools, lodged a complaint with the Vaishali Nagar police station alleging that Sharma and his parents had started harassing their daughter for dowry soon after marriage. "Meenu suspected that her husband and in-laws might kill her for dowry. She expressed her fear in the letters she wrote to her mother, but could never dispatch," special public prosecutor Shiv Chand Sahu told the media.
One of Meenu's letters, which was produced in court, read: "I had never imagined that there would be such a difference in the life before and after marriage. If something happens to me, these tormentors should never be spared because they will attempt to kill me and call it suicide or natural death." Meenu used to teach in a private school and maintained a daily diary where her letters were discovered by the police.
Minutes after Meenu was allegedly poisoned by her husband and in-laws around 5:30 pm on October 17, she called up her mother Laxmi Kaushik from a public telephone booth located close to her rented home. "Maa, teri beti ko teeno ne kuchh khila diya hai. (Mother, the trio has fed something to your daughter)," Meenu told her mother, suggesting that her husband and parents-in-law had cunningly given her something poisonous to eat.
The telephone operator, a handwriting expert and the private doctor who first treated Meenu when she was poisoned, were among the 28 witnesses who testified against the accused.
Shortly before the judge was to pronounce the order on Saturday, Meenu's father Narendra Bihari Kaushik left the courtroom saying, "I won't be able to hear the verdict."