Former host of TV show India's Most Wanted convicted of murdering his wife

Suhaib Ilyasi was sentenced to life in prison this week for fatally stabbing his wife in their home in 2000.
Suhaib Ilyasi was sentenced to life in prison this week for fatally stabbing his wife in their home in 2000. PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW DELHI (NEW YORK TIMES) - In a case that played out like an episode of his own true-crime television show, the former host and creator of India's Most Wanted was sentenced this week to life in prison for murdering his wife and trying to frame it as a suicide.

Suspicions about the host, Suhaib Ilyasi, first gripped Indian headlines in January 2000, when his wife, Anju Ilyasi, 30, was found dead from multiple stab wounds in the couple's East Delhi home.

Ilyasi, 50, has maintained that his wife killed herself after an argument. But in his ruling, Judge S. K. Malhotra said: "The record does not indicate that she committed suicide."

He suggested Mrs Ilyasi was killed for knowing too much about her husband's criminal past.

The television host "committed her murder and gave it a colour of suicide", the judge said, according to local news reports.

"Injustice!" Ilyasi shouted when the sentence was announced.

Mrs Ilyasi knew about her husband's history of "forgeries and wrong acts, i.e. possessing two passports, using a fake degree for a job, committing credit card fraud, etc", the judge wrote in a 125-page verdict read in court on Wednesday (Dec 20).

Mrs Ilyasi's family has long believed her husband was responsible for her death and has pursued him through the courts and in the news media.

A coroner's report at the time ruled the death a suicide, but the courts later reopened the case after her family petitioned for a review.

Judge Malhotra concluded that the initial examination had seemingly ignored evidence, including copious amounts of the woman's blood found in several rooms of the couple's home that her husband erroneously claimed was menstrual.

Mrs Ilyasi's family initially sought charges in 2000 against Ilyasi, the son of a prominent Muslim cleric, claiming that he had driven his wife to kill herself after demanding more money as part of a wedding dowry. Such dowries are common but illegal under Indian law.

It was not until 2014 that the Delhi High Court accepted a petition by Mrs Ilyasi's family to reopen the case and charge Ilyasi with murder.

"The verdict has finally come after 17 long years," Mrs Ilyasi's mother, Rukma Singh, told reporters. "I am satisfied with the court order."

India's Most Wanted, in which Ilyasi reported on the country's at-large criminals, first aired on Zee TV in 1998 and quickly became popular.

The show was reportedly responsible for the arrests of 30 suspects.

After his wife's death, Zee TV replaced Ilyasi as host, and the show was later cancelled. But Ilyasi remained a figure on Indian television, producing and starring in two other crime shows as he pursued an acting career.

His lawyer has said he will appeal the conviction.