Top cop, three others held guilty in Shivani Bhatnagar murder

March 18th, 2008 - 8:10 pm ICT by admin  

(Second Lead)

New Delhi, March 18 (IANS) Curtains came down on the nine-year-long trial in the murder of journalist Shivani Bhatnagar with a fast track court Tuesday holding guilty former Indian Police Service (IPS) official R.K. Sharma, who was allegedly into a relationship with her, and his three associates. Besides Sharma, Additional Sessions Judge Rajendra Kumar Shastri held guilty his three associates in the crime - Pradeep Sharma, Satya Prakash and Sri Bhagwan.

The court relied upon the calls made by Sharma to the three men soon after the Indian Express reporter was murdered Jan 23, 1999. The court held that this was the strongest evidence to nail the four accused.

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

The quantum of the sentence will be pronounced March 20, Thursday.

After the conviction, Sharma pointed fingers at the judiciary and the media in the jam-packed courtroom, and shouted: “This is just a publicity stunt.” He later embraced his sister.

Dressed in a pink t-shirt, Sharma looked tense but unfazed.

Defence lawyers later said they would file an appeal against the bverdict with the Delhi High Court.

“We will move the higher court for justice. Let us examine the judgement first to see as to on what grounds the judge has held Pradeep guilty,” said D.B. Goswami, defence counsel for Pradeep Sharma, who was held guilty for conspiring and eliminating Bhatnagar.

“We will demand death for all the accused,” said Manisha, a lawyer representing the prosecution.

However, legal experts are doubtful if the prosecution will be able to prove that the case falls under the category of ‘rarest of rare’.

In the nine years of trial, four judges have heard the case. There were 209 witnesses, of which 51 turned hostile.

Sharma and the three have been charged under Section 302 (murder), 120 B (conspiracy) and could face the maximum punishment of death penalty.

March 5, the fast track court fixed March 18 as the date for pronouncing its judgment.

Shivani Bhatnagar, principal correspondent of the Indian Express, was murdered in her east Delhi flat Jan 23, 1999, while she was with her infant son.

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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