Bangalore: On May 28, 1991, 44-year-old Shakereh Khaleeli was drugged with sleeping pills and then buried alive inside her own bunglow in Bangalore.
Seventeen years later, her second husband - self-styled godman Swami Shraddananda, who was the main accused - has been sentenced to a life term by the Supreme Court, bringing relief to Khaleeli's daughters who fought the long legal battle.
One of her daughters, Essmath Khaleeli says, "Now we are just happy that for the rest of his natural life, our family would be safe from him, the society would be safe from him."
Shakereh Khaleeli was the wife of a former Indian diplomat and the mother of four daughters. She had been weaned away by Shraddhananda, who promised her a son through tantrik power. But Shraddhananda eyed her property and when his scheme started failing, he killed her.
For years, the Khaleelis have lived with the fact that their mother had been buried alive for four years before being found dead and that her killer had just been in judicial custody until as late as 2005 when the high court upheld his death penalty.
Both the high court as well as the lower court sentenced Shraddhananda to death, but for the Supreme Court, this wasn't a rarest of rare crime. The apex court commuted the death sentence to life but with a rider.
Standing Counsel for Karnataka Government, Sanjay Hegde said, "The court has clarified that a life term doesn not mean 14 years. No remision or review will be granted to the convict. He will stay behind bars till the end of his life."
In cases like the Nitish Katara murder case, the victim's family have often complained that a life term is not a punishment enough as effectively it ends after 14 years, but with this judgement, the Supreme Court has set a preecedent making it clear that the courts can actually sentence a man to life behind bars without parole till he breathes his last.
(With inputs from Arunima in New Delhi)