Ex-army officer gets life term for 1982 murder (Lead)

May 3rd, 2008 - 9:45 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, May 3 (IANS) Lt. Col. (retd) S.J. Choudhary was Saturday sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering automobile dealer Krishan Sikand in the capital’s upscale Sundar Nagar neighbourhood in 1982. Additional Sessions Judge Mamta Sehgal held Choudhary, 72, guilty under section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as well as sections 3 and 4 of the Explosives Act. He was also fined Rs.10,000.

Reacting to the judgement, Choudhary, who was convicted Monday, pointed fingers at the mediapersons alleging that media had always reported only one side of the matter and they “never ever approached me”.

“All the media reports must have an impact on you,” Choudhary told the judge.

She replied, “I don’t go by what media is reporting. They write against me too.”

Choudhary, who looked tense the day before when the court heard arguments on the quantum of sentence, was calm and composed Saturday. Wearing a light blue shirt and dark blue trousers, he was in constant touch with his lawyer and family.

The court had convicted Choudhary for sending a parcel bomb that killed Sikand Oct 2, 1982.

According to the prosecution, Chaudhary was angry because his divorced wife had decided to move in with Sikand and the two had planned to get married.

The CBI had also alleged that the bomb used in the murder was made in Pakistan and was seized by the Indian Army following its victory in the 1971 war.

After the arrest and the filing of the charge sheet, the trial began May 31, 1984 and the process of recording evidence continued for 15 years.

Despite all odds, the victim’s 98-year-old father H.D. Sikand continued to make attempts for a speedier probe.

The convict’s brother Kanwaljeet Choudhary told IANS: “I only want to clarify one thing that the delay in the case was due to the prosecution side and not from our side. The prosecution has taken 23 years and four months to complete examining of witnesses.”

Also present in the courtroom was Choudhary’s elder daughter Sonal, who refused to talk to the media. “Media always reported one side of the story,” she said.

Choudhary refused to leave the court without getting a copy of the order. He told the 43 Delhi Police officials accompanying him: “Don’t worry, I will not run away at this age.”

Sanjay Sikand, son of Krishan Sikand, told the media: “It’s an emotional moment for us. I have no word to speak. We are satisfied with the judgement and finally after 26 years of a long legal battle my family and I will be at peace.”

However, the judge did not agree with the prosecution’s demand that Choudhary be given the death penalty.

It argued that the motive behind the ghastly crime was Choudhary’s anger that his divorced wife Rani had decided to move in with Sikand and the two planned to get married.

However, the defence alleged that Sikand had taken advantage of his position in society and had been already living with the woman before her formal divorce.

“The accused is 72 years old and has served the country and won several awards while serving in the army,” said defence counsel S.P. Minocha, arguing against the prosecution’s demand for maximum punishment.

He said Choudhary had taken care of Rani’s two daughters and brought them up well even though she had left him.

A family member told the media that they no clue on Rani’s whereabouts and she had not been in touch with them.

During the prolonged trial, the Sikands had approached the Delhi High Court several times to speed up the proceedings. The case documents ran into a few thousand pages.

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