Journalist Soumya Murder Trial: HC Seeks Report On Accused's Plea For 1Cr Compensation For Prolonged Trial

Journalist Soumya Murder Trial: HC Seeks Report On  Accused

One of the accused in the 2008 TV journalist Soumya Vishwanathan murder case on Thursday moved the Delhi High Court seeking Rs 1 crore as compensation for agony caused to him due to prolonged trial in the matter where even after almost a decade the examination of prosecution witnesses have not concluded.

Baljeet Singh Malik alias Poppy moved the court through advocate Amit Kumar seeking compensation and undertook that if granted, the amount would be spent in the welfare of undertrial prisoners in Central Jail, Tihar.

The petition came up for hearing before Justice Mukta Gupta on Thursday who issued a notice to the Delhi government and called for a report from the trial court.

The matter is now fixed for February 26.

Soumya was found dead in her car in Vasant Kunj area of South Delhi with a gunshot in her head in the wee hours of September 30, 2008. She was returning from her workplace.

On March 23, 2009, the police arrested Baljeet, Ravi Kapoor and Amit Shukla in connection with the murder of IT executive Jigisha Ghosh.

During interrogation, the police are said to have learnt that the trio was also involved in Soumya's murder besides two other accused namely Ajay Kumar and Ajay Sethi.

The charge sheet in Soumya's murder case came to be filed in June 2009 and Baljeet and his co-accused were formally arrested in the said case on March 10, 2010 for further investigation under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) and in May 2011, additional charge under Section 3 (for organised crime of robbery and murder) of the Act was also framed against them.

Since then, the trial has been pending before a Sessions court in Saket.

In the meantime, in the year 2016, Baljeet, Ravi and Amit were convicted by a trial court in Jigisha murder case. While Ravi and Amit were sentenced to death, Baljeet was sentenced to life imprisonment. The Delhi High Court, however, commuted the death sentence to life term while upholding Baljeet's conviction and punishment.

In his plea for compensation and speedy trial, Baljeet's counsel Amit Kumar said, "being charged with the stringent provisions of MCOCA the petitioner has not been able to be released on regular bail and unreasonable delay in investigation and trial is not only prejudicial to his rights but that of his family too".

Baljeet said the long incarceration in the present case has caused him immense mental, physical, social and emotional agony.

He also said that the prosecution has cited around 88 witnesses in their charge-sheet and supplementary charge-sheet, and till date, less than 60 per cent of the cited witnesses have been examined and sought day-to-day trial in the matter.

Relying on the Supreme Court verdict in State of U.P. Vs. Shambhu Nath Singh, the petition said, "the constitutional guarantee of speedy trial is properly reflected in Section 309 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. As per mandate of Section 309 of Cr.P.C., once examination of witnesses start, the court has to conduct the trial from day to day until all witnesses in attendance have been examined. The court has to record reasons for deviating from the said course. Even that is forbidden when witnesses are present in court, as the requirement then is that the court has to examine them. Only if there are "special reasons", which reasons should find a place in order for adjournment, that alone can confer jurisdiction on the Court to adjourn the case without examination of witnesses who are present in the Court".

He also reiterated that prolonged trial is also violative of his right to life and liberty.