All you need to know about the Poonia murders


The Poonia murders or the Relu Ram Poonia murder case is the mass murder of the Indian politician Relu Ram Poonia along with seven of his family members.

Who committed the Poonia murders?

Ram’s daughter Sonia along with her husband Sanjeev Kumar murdered Relu Ram and his seven family members over a property dispute. All of this happened on the night of 23rd August 2001. A case was filed. The court tried Sonia along with Sanjeev and the other family members. The District Court found the couple guilty and sentenced them to death. Then the Punjab and Haryana High Court reduced the sentence to life imprisonment but the Supreme Court held onto the death sentence.

Who were the victims of the Poonia murders?

There were eight people in total whom the couple murdered on the night of 23rd August 2001. They being Relu Ram Poonia (age 50), his second wife Krishna (age 41), his son Sunil (age 23), his daughter Priyanka (age 16), his daughter-in-law Shakuntala (age 20), his two granddaughters named Shivani (age 2) and Preeti (age 3 months) and his grandson Lokesh (age 4). The duo murdered all the above-mentioned people in their sleep.

What was the crime in the Poonia murders?

Sonia, the daughter of Relu Ram and Krishna murdered the entire family by hitting them continuously with a heavy metal rod until they were dead. A servant found the bodies strewn around at various locations in the two-story mansion by a servant. He had come to take Lokesh to his school bus. The murderers gagged Shakuntala and tied her up. But there was no sign of resistance from the other family members. Sonia laid unconscious the next morning. Apparently, she had tried committing suicide by consuming pesticide and had written a suicide note. In the note, she confessed that she had killed her father because he did not love her.

How did the murders take place?

It was just on the previous night that Sonia had brought Priyanka from a hostel to celebrate her birthday with great pomp and show. Firecrackers were set off exactly on the eve of her birthday. The servants however said that they had seen Sonia come to the garage and take an iron rod with her. When the clock struck 4:45 am IST, Sonia rode away in a Tata Sumo to drop off her husband Sanjeev from the crime scene. On medical check-up, the police found traces of opium in the rice pudding the family consumed the previous night. The couple planned this beforehand so that the family was drugged and could not make any sound when Sonia attempted to kill them.

What was the case made around the Poonia murders?

In May 2004, a District and sessions court found Sonia and her husband Sanjeev guilty of murdering Poonia and seven other family members. This occurred due to a family dispute regarding the distribution of property between Sonia and her half-brother Sunil. The court sentenced both of them to death. Their prosecutor P.K. Sandhir said that the case was difficult to win as it was completely based on circumstantial evidence. The police listed 109 witnesses out of which the court examined only 66.

What happened after the District court gave their sentence?

In 2005, the Punjab and Haryana Court changed the couple’s death sentence to life imprisonment. However, when the Supreme Court ruled in 2007, it again imparted a death sentence on them. In October 2007 the Haryana governor declined their plea for mercy. The couple knew that the President of India could grant them clemency under Section 72 (1) of the Indian Constitution. So they filed a mercy petition there.

In February 2009, Sonia wanted the death sentence on her head as imprisonment was becoming difficult for her. Her request was denied. In April 2013, President Pranab Mukherjee rejected her plea for clemency. But a civil rights group called the People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) requested the Supreme Court to Withhold the death sentence showing delays in rejecting the mercy pleas. The court accepted this. Later on January 2014, the Supreme Court gave life terms to 13 more death-row inmates whom the court found guilty of the same crime.

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