The IPS officer is fined Rs. 20,000 and the others Rs. 10,000 each
NEW DELHI: Suspended Indian Police Service officer R. K. Sharma was sentenced to rigorous life imprisonment in the Shivani Bhatnagar murder case by a court here on Monday. The other three convicts were also awarded life terms.
Additional Sessions Judge Rajendra Kumar Shastri, who pronounced the sentence in a packed Karkardooma court room, slapped a fine of Rs.20,000 on Sharma and Rs.10,000 each on Pradeep, Satya Prakash and Shri Bhagwan. In case of default in payment, the convicts would have to undergo additional simple imprisonment for six months.
The Judge orally observed that death penalty was not needed in the case as the convicts did not have previous criminal involvement and Sharma had an excellent service record. The crime of which he was convicted was “not of that ilk that could shock the conscience of the society.”
All the convicts put up a brave face and were seen assuring their near and dear not to worry. Some even managed a momentary smile.
Asked by a court official if he was going to pay the fine then and there, the IPS officer said he was “a beggar having spent more than five years in jail.”
“If I pay now, it will be illegal,” he said with a wry smile.
Earlier on March 20, the prosecution had pressed for the maximum punishment for Sharma and Pradeep. They contended that while Sharma planned Shivani’s murder, Pradeep executed it in cold blood against a “defenceless journalist” in anticipation of a reward.
However, the defence argued that the case did not fall in the “rarest of the rare” category.
On March 18, the court convicted the four accused of criminal conspiracy and murder. Ved Prakash Sharma and Ved, alias Kalu, were acquitted for lack of sufficient evidence.
Shivani, a principal correspondent with Indian Express, was murdered in her East Delhi apartment on January 23, 1999. Investigations remained in a limbo for more than three years and the first arrest was made in July 2002.
Shri Bhagwan was the first to be arrested. Sharma evaded the police for about 45 days before finally surrendering at an Ambala court in Haryana.
After more than five years of trial, it was the testimonies of Shivani’s sister and her close friends and the record of telephone calls among the accused at crucial times that helped nail them. The court said Sharma decided to eliminate Shivani after she threatened to make their relationship public. Sharma and Shivani had struck a close friendship when he was posted at the Prime Minister’s Office and she was part of an investigating team of the newspaper.
According to the prosecution, Pradeep managed to gain access to Shivani’s house on January 23, 1999, on the pretext of handing her a box of sweets and a wedding card. He then strangled her with an electric wire and stabbed her repeatedly. All the accused met in Mumbai the next day where Sharma paid the hired killers.