An Apex Court Bench comprising Justice J.S. Khehar and Justice A.K. Goel yesterday delivered its order in the infamous 2002 Nitish Katara murder case, upholding the findings of the trial Court and the Delhi High Court. The Court however, agreed to look into the aspect relating to the quantum of sentence awarded to the three convicts- Vikas Yadav, his cousin Vishal and, Sukhdev Pehalwan.
The Court refused to issue notices of the appeals of Vikas and Sukhdev, reasoning that the High Court order “does not call for” any intervention. Upholding their conviction, the Court reportedly observed, “Just imagine the kind of threat perception you created… Only criminals are crying for justice. What kind of fairness victims can expect?”
Notice has been issued to the Delhi Government on the scope of punishment and reply has been sought within six weeks.
Senior Advocate U.R. Lalit opened his arguments saying the three convicts have been awarded life term for one injury on the head of the victim. The bench however refused to accept this contention, stating that such things happen in honor killings.
The bench refused to accept the submission that key prosecution witness Ajay Katara, who had last seen the victim alive in the company of the three accused in a Tata Safari car on the intervening night of February 16-17, 2002 at Hapur Chungi in Ghaziabad, was a "planted and fabricated" witness. The Bench in fact lend credence to witness Katara, saying that he had shown and "if you (advocate) cannot dent Ajay Katara then we are not with you."
It reportedly remarked that almost of all prosecution witnesses had "resiled" from their statements in the trial court and said, "This shows how much power you wielded". “Show us something glaring. Otherwise, we are not with you," the Bench added.
The senior advocate tried to discredit Ajay Katara’s testimony, saying that the witness, who lived in Shahadara, had his scooter broken down on the middle of road near Hapur Chungi around 12.30 am forcing the Tata Safari Car to stop behind him. He then reached the Police Station after a month of the incident, and gives statement that he identifies the three accused whose photographs were all over, including television channels, driving home the point that he was a “planted” witness.
The Court however rejected this argument, along with the referral made to the testimony of the Investigating Officer Anil Samania.
As per reports, it was also argued that the defence lawyer was not allowed to ask material questions about the eye sight of Ajay Katara, who deposed wearing sunglasses. The Bench however trashed this argument as well, saying, “If he can drive a scooter in the middle of the night, if he can see the road, then he can see all of you. Nothing revolves on it.”
The Bench said that they have been provided with enough “indulgence” from the High Court and accused them of wasting “judicial time”.
The Bench rejected Sukhdev Pehalwan’s submission, saying that “you are an honest servant of master (Yadavs), but your problem is that you helped them in the crime. ... You will swim together or you will sink together.”
"Nitish has got justice. This is a huge victory. I am vindicated, it's a big day for all of us," Neelam, the mother of Nitish Katara told NDTV.
Vikas Yadav, son of Uttar Pradesh politician D. P. Yadav, his cousin Vishal and Sukhdev are convicted of abducting and killing Nitish Katara, a business executive and son of an IAS officer, on the night of February 16th -17th, 2002. The allegation leveled by the prosecution was that the Yadav’s allegedly killed the victim, as they did not accept his alleged affair with their sister Bharti Yadav.
Earlier in February, refusing to award death sentence to Vikas and Vishal Yadav, a Division Bench of Delhi High Court has via a detailed 594 page judgment turned the life imprisonment (LI) to 25 years of actual imprisonment without consideration of remission and a fine of Rs. 50 Lakh each u/s 302 along with rigorous imprisonment (RI) of 10 years under Sections 364/34 IPC which will run concurrently with the sentence given under Section 302/34 IPC.
The Division Bench comprising of Gita Mittal & J.R. Midha JJ stated that the removal of all sources of identification and burning of the body beyond identification was part of single premeditated plan u/s 201 executed by the defendants. They were hence awarded RI for 5 years with fine of Rs. 2 lakh, with the sentence running consecutively to the 25 years of actual imprisonment awarded to the defendants, making it 30 years of imprisonment in toto. You may read the LiveLaw story here.
They were convicted by the Delhi High Court in April last year. You may read the judgment and LiveLaw story here. The Court had also ordered compensation to be paid to the Katara’s family. You may read the LiveLaw story here. You may also read: 23 Proved Circumstances which led the Delhi High Court to confirm the Conviction of the accused in Nitish Katara Murder Case