New Delhi: After a premature release was granted to former Uttar Pradesh minister, Amarmani Tripathi, who was serving a life sentence for the murder of poet Madhumita Shukla, Nidhi Shukla, the poet’s sister, has said that she fears for her life and has been receiving death threats.
Speaking to The Wire, Shukla said that since the day Tripathi’s release order was issued, she has been fearing for her life.
“Since August 24, I have received six phone calls threatening me,” she said. “Yes, I am very scared, as I don’t know how long I will be alive. Ek baar wo bahar aa jaye, mujhe chorega nahi. [Once he (Tripathi) comes out, he will not leave me],” she said.
Tripathi’s wife was also convicted of murdering 24-year-old Madhumita Shukla, who was seven months pregnant when she was killed in Lucknow in 2003.
Premature release citing ‘ good behaviour’
On Friday (August 25), Shukla’s writ petition opposing the Tripathi couple’s premature release reached the Supreme Court. The apex court issued notices to the state government, Tripathi, and his wife while seeking their replies within eight weeks, but it did not stay their release.
A day earlier, the Uttar Pradesh government on Thursday (August 24) ordered the release of Tripathi and his wife, who were both serving life sentences in connection with the budding poet’s death in 2003.
The premature release was granted to them, citing the state’s 2018 policy on remission, since they have completed 16 years of imprisonment, reported Press Trust of India.
The prison department also cited their ‘old age’ and ‘good behaviour’ as Amarmani is 66 years old and Madhumani is 61, Gorakhpur jail superintendent Dilip Pandey was quoted by the news agency as saying.
On May 9, 2003, Shukla, then a budding poet, was shot dead in Lucknow’s Paper Mill Colony. The Central Bureau of Investigation’s probe found that Tripathi and Shukla were in a relationship, and a post-mortem report revealed that she was seven months pregnant with his child.
The then minister tried to force her to have an abortion, according to the CBI, failing which he and his wife hatched a conspiracy to kill the poet.
In December 2007, the Special CBI court in Dehradun sentenced the couple to life imprisonment for the murder, along with two others, namely Rohit Chaturvedi (Amarmani’s nephew) and Santosh Kumar Rai (his close relative).
Subsequently, the Uttarakhand high court in Nainital upheld the sentence. The case then reached the Supreme Court but no relief was granted to them.
The Supreme Court in 2013 also affirmed the life sentences handed out to them.
Remission guidelines ‘overlooked’
In her writ petition in the Supreme Court, Nidhi Shukla opposed the UP government’s decision to release the Tripathis.
The petition accessed by The Wire said that the UP government has “completely overlooked” the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on the grant of special remission to prisoners to commemorate the “75th year of Independence” that excluded those convicts who are serving life sentence for heinous offences from the purview of consideration even after the completion of 14 years of their sentence.
The petition said that following the death of the then 24-year-old poet, the case was handed over to the CBI “due to the involvement and interference of a powerful politician”.
Amarmani Tripathi has been a four-time MLA in UP and has been associated with all four major political parties in the state, including the Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP), and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
He won his last election in 2007 while he was in jail.
At the time of Shukla’s murder, he was a minister in Mayawati’s BSP government in the state and was sacked in the wake of the murder.
The petition said that while he had been an MLA from the Nautanwa constituency, Tripathi had a “strong influence” in UP and in Gorakhpur, which is his permanent residence.
Gorakhpur is also the constituency of chief minister Yogi Adityanath.
The petition said that despite life terms awarded to Amarmani and his wife, Madhumani, newspaper reports and sting operations in 2015-16 revealed that “they have been enjoying a luxurious life in a hospital at his home district where he occupied a full area of the government hospital, and in complete mockery of justice, they were undergoing life imprisonment just for namesake.”
“Even when he was shifted back to jail from the hospital, the jail authorities provided all facilities to them, including a mobile phone and a laptop. In fact, they were provided with two barracks while usually, 150 to 200 common prisoners/convicts were kept in each barrack,” it said.
The petition also said that while several Right to Information (RTI) appeals filed by Nidhi Shukla about their time in hospitals and prison are still pending, according to one reply received in 2021, both Amarmani and Madhumani had spent about six years each in hospitals instead of being in jail.
The petition thus stated that the couple made a “mockery” of the court verdicts.
It also said that Nidhi Shukla, after receiving “constant threats” from the Tripathis’ son Amanmani Tripathi, made several representations to the District Magistrate, the Superintendent of Police and the principal secretary, Home, Lucknow for her and her family’s security.
Amanmani Tripathi has also been a MLA after he won the 2017 election from the Nautanwa constituency as an independent. He also contested the 2022 election, but was unsuccessful.
Shukla’s petition said that it was being filed in the Supreme Court as her several representations “vehemently opposed” to the premature release of the Tripathis have gone “unanswered”.
“The governor has been misled”
Speaking to The Wire, Shukla said that while the Supreme Court has found merit in her documents, the state government has not.
“The governor has been misled. All the authorities have all the documents. We have proof including RTI documents. We have filed all our papers in the Supreme Court. On the basis of these documents, the court accepted my plea and found truth in these papers but the state government did not and that is why this release was ordered,” she said.
She claimed that while the release has been ordered citing old age and illness, it is widely known that the Tripathis are not ill.
“Now they are citing their old age and ill health – the whole country knows that Amarmani Tripathi is not ill,” she said.
Shukla said that she has no hopes for justice in Uttar Pradesh.
“When we were not getting justice here in Uttar Pradesh years ago, we went to the Supreme Court and the case was transferred to Uttarakhand. It is evident for years that justice will not be possible in Uttar Pradesh.”
Shukla said that the Tripathis have been released because the remission plea came to the Uttar Pradesh government.
In 2013, the then-SP government had said that since the matter has been transferred to Uttarakhand, they could not decide on it (remission plea). In Uttarakhand as well, the case has gone to the governor several times.
“The state government (UP) which hadn’t been able to send him to jail has now decided to release him,” she said.
She added that the documents clearly say that he has been living at the chief minister’s doorstep in Gorakhpur.
“I am not saying this, the documents are saying this,” she said.
Shukla said that she has written several letters in the last 12 years.
“In the last 12 years, every 15 days I have written letters to the state government,” she said.
“When I was convinced that I wont get justice in Uttar Pradesh, that is when I went to the Supreme Court.”
She said that she has since written to the chief minister as well as President Droupadi Murmu.
“But why is the chief minister not even asking what documents are being spoken about (in the media)?”
“Yogi Adityanath is my guardian,” says Tripathi’s son
Amanmani Tripathi said that his parents’ treatment followed all legal procedures. He further said that their release did not come through preferential treatment from the state government.
“There has been no push from the state government. There is a law and I am an Indian citizen under the Indian constitution. And I have the same rights as all other citizens. The state government has given its decision after we went to the Supreme Court,” he told The Wire.
He added, however, that his family has had close ties with chief minister Yogi Adityanath for years.
“I have been an independent MLA in 2017, at the time Yogi ji was elected as the chief minister. Before that he was an MP from Gorakhpur. The distance between my residence and Gorakhnath temple (where Adityanath was the chief priest) is approximately 500 metres. We have very good relations,” he said.
He said that he has been visiting the temple since he was a child and his father and grandfather too have been going there.
“When my parents were in jail I knew I had someone with whom I used to share personal, political and family problems. He used to give me advice like a guardian. And there are many such guardians from Gorakhpur Temple who used to give me advice. But yes, Yogi ji is my guardian,” he said.
“There is a hospital in jail itself and if the jail hospital is not able to treat them, they will refer them to a higher centre, which is either a civil hospital or a district hospital. This is the law and this is how it’s done,” he further said, while refuting Shukla’s allegations.
“If a person is in jail and is undergoing treatment, there is a specific organisation that looks into every aspect and decisions go through them and if they are found to be fine, they send them back to jail. No one can just go to a hospital and stay there,” he said.
He said that despite their release order, his parents are seriously ill and continue to remain in the hospital.
“They are still in the hospital as they are seriously ill. My father is suffering from a spinal neurological problem. If he walks, he falls down. My mother has severe psychiatric issues.”
However, the release order has come as a “dream come true” for his family and supporters.
“It feels like a dream come true. Our family, supporters and well-wishers had the faith that one day we will win and when we got to know about the order of their release, we were happy,” he said.
Amanmani refuted allegations that his parents’ release had anything to do with the upcoming general election in 2024, where his father’s political influence could be crucial.
“We are not thinking of politics as of now. We, as a family, are cherishing this moment.”
He said that in the last 20 years, he has been away from politics. He won his last election in 2007. “Since then, I’ve been contesting from his seat. Many elections have come and gone in between.”
“Thousands of prisoners in jail”
Shukla said that while Amanmani Tripathi can claim that he has old family ties with the chief minister, she is simply an ordinary citizen.
“I cannot say that I have family relations with Yogi ji because I don’t. Like he is the chief minister to the common people, he is the chief minister to me as well. But Amanmani is saying proudly that he has familial ties with Yogi Adityanath,” she said.
Shukla said that her only demand now is that the Tripathis’ release should be reversed.
“I can only request those in power, to give us an opportunity to show our documents and act against those officers who have cleared their release.”
“The governor (Anandiben Patel) has special powers. She can peruse the two sets of documents – those given by the state government and those sent by me, and she can decide on her own on Amarmani’s release. I am ready to show the documents again and ready for a point by point debate”
“There are thousands of prisoners who are languishing in jails for years even at 80 years of age and have good behaviour. Why are they not being released?” she asked.