Sharma is the first online journalist to win the prize, which is named after freedom fighter Chameli Devi Jain. For 35 years, it has been recognising women journalists who have upheld standards of excellence through a sustained body of work.
Over the last year, Sharma has undertaken several rigorous reporting projects.
Just before the 2014 national elections, she set out on a 2,500-km train journey from Assam to Kashmir, aiming to find out about what Indians thought about their politicians and what they wanted from their new government. Read the Window Seat series here.
Towards the end of the year, when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh announced its gharwapasi programme to encourage Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism, Sharma travelled to Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat to report on how Sangh organisations were working in concert with the civic authorities to spread fear among members of minority communities, especially among Christians.
In December, as the 30th anniversary of the Bhopal gas disaster approached, she headed for small workshops in the industrial belt in Gurgaon to see if any lessons about workers’ safety had been learnt. Read those stories here.
The jury also commended Sarada Lahangir, a Bhubaneshwar based freelance journalist, and Mini Thomas, a Bangalore based journalist from The Week, with a Honourable Mention. Lahangir has been reporting from Orissa on the rights of tribals and gender issues while Thomas was praised for her searing investigative feature on female genital mutilation.
This year's jury consisted of R Sukumar, Editor, Mint; Ravish Kumar, Executive Editor, NDTV India; and Kaveree Bamzai, Editor at Large, India Today.
The award will be presented on March 19 at Delhi's India International Centre auditorium at 6 pm. It will be followed by the BG Verghese Memorial Lecture by former West Bengal governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi. He will speak on the "Shrinking Space for Dissent".