Sentencing in Shivani Bhatnagar murder on Monday

March 20th, 2008 - 7:57 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, March 20 (IANS) A cioty court will Monday pronounce sentences of former Indian Police Service (IPS) official R.K. Sharma and three others held guilty in the 1999 murder of journalist Shivani Bhatnagar. The court Thursday reserved its order on the sentences on Sharma, and the three other guilty - Pradeep Sharma, Sri Bhagwan and Satya Prakash.

Additional Sessions Judge Rajendra Kumar Shastri held the four guilty of conspiring to and murdering Shivani Bhatnagar after hearing the arguments from the prosecution and the defence.

S.K. Saxena, special prosecutor, cited judgements of the apex court to demand death penalty for R.K. Sharma and Pradeep Sharma and pressed for life sentence for Sri Bhagwan and Satya Prakash.

S.P. Minocha, counsel for R.K. Sharma, argued before the court this murder does not fall under the category of ‘rarest of rare’, and so death penalty cannot be awarded to Sharma.

“My client has got no previous criminal record and has never misused his official position for any wrongdoing. Giving death penalty would certainly not be fair,” Minocha argued.

Minocha also denied the prosecution’s argument that Sharma and Shivani were in a relationship.

“My client met her (Shivani) in his official capacity only,” he insisted.

Counsel for Pradeep Sharma, D.B. Goswami, cited the assassination of late prime minister Indira Gandhi by her bodyguards, and said they deserved the death penalty.

“But this case is a murder which is not even committed in a brutal manner. So giving death will shake the conscience of the society,” Goswami argued.

He added that recommendations have been made by various organizations like Amnesty International to abolish the death penalty in India.

He quoted Mahatma Gandhias having said, “Hate the crime, not the criminal”.

R.K. Sharma, Pradeep Sharma, Satya Prakash and Sri Bhagwan were held guilty under section 302 (murder) and 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code for the Jan 23, 1999, murder of the Indian Express journalist.

The court in its 115-page judgement relied upon the calls made by Sharma to the three men soon after Bhatnagar was murdered. The court held that this was the strongest evidence to nail the four.

However, the court acquitted two other accused, Ved Prakash Sharma and Ved alias Kalu, citing absence of sufficient evidence against them.

Defence lawyers later said they would appeal against the verdict to the Delhi High Court.

In the six years since the trial began in 2002, four judges have heard the case. There were 209 witnesses, of which 51 turned hostile.

Sharma was removed from the post of IG (Prisons) for failing to join duty after expiry of his leave Aug 14, 2002. He surrendered in an Ambala court Sep 27 that year.

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