Shivani murder: Life term for Sharma, three others

March 24th, 2008 - 8:12 pm ICT by admin  

(Lead)

New Delhi, March 24 (IANS) A city court Monday awarded life term to former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer R.K. Sharma and three others for their involvement in the murder of journalist Shivani Bhatnagar in 1999. Awarding the sentence, Additional Sessions Judge Rajendra Kumar Shastri in his order, however, stated: “Except for the crime in question, R.K. Sharma was an asset to this nation.” The court also imposed a fine of Rs.20,000 on Sharma.

Sharma’s henchmen Pradeep Sharma, Sri Bhagwan and Satya Prakash will have to pay a fine of Rs.10,000 each besides undergoing life imprisonment, the court ruled.

All the four were last week held guilty of murder and hatching a criminal conspiracy under sections 302 (murder) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for the murder of the Indian Express journalist at her east Delhi apartment Jan 23, 1999.

Denying the prosecution demand of death penalty to R.K. Sharma and Pradeep Sharma and life imprisonment to Sri Bhagwan and Satya Prakash, the judge disagreed with its argument that it was one of the ‘rarest of rare’ cases and that the convicts deserved death penalty.

“Sharma has rendered distinguished services to the nation and earned appreciation during his tenure,” said the judge.

The judge, however, could not refrain himself from stating that R.K. Sharma and Bhatnagar despite being already married to others had developed an intimacy which was not acceptable to society.

Agreeing with the defence contention, the judge mentioned in his order that the murder in itself is an abominable and heinous crime, the offender of which can never be pardoned. But the offence under consideration was not of that ilk which could shock the conscience of society, the judge said.

Taking a lenient view for Pradeep Sharma’s sentencing, the judge said he was an unemployed youth and since he was allured with the promise of restoration of his job in the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA), he was impelled to do the wicked act of killing.

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

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

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

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

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

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