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Soumya Vishwanathan murder case: Saket court awards life imprisonment to 4, releases fifth convict

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A Delhi court on Saturday sentenced four convicts to life imprisonment in the murder case of India Today Group journalist Soumya Vishwanathan, 15 years after she was shot in the dead of night, while returning home in her car.

Before pronouncing the quantum of sentence, Additional Sessions Judge Ravindra Kumar Pandey of the Saket Court sought views of Madhavi Vishwanathan, Soumya’s mother, who was present in the court.

Madhavi Vishwanathan said she wanted justice to be delivered in the case. She further said that her husband M.K. Vishwanathan, who was currently in ICU, was also awaiting justice for his daughter.

Noting that the act did not fall under the ‘rarest of rare’ category, the ASJ refused to award death penalty to the convicts and instead, sentenced Ravi Kapoor, Amit Shukla, Baljeet Singh Malik and Ajay Kumar to life imprisonment. The court further imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 each on them.

They were also awarded life imprisonment and fined Rs one lakh each for the offence under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA). The court said the convicts will serve consecutive sentences in two cases, which means they will serve one sentence after the other.

Ajay Sethi, the fifth convict in the case, was fined Rs five lakh and released on the grounds that he had already served the sentence for offence under Section 411 (dishonestly receiving stolen property) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Earlier on October 26, the ASJ had reserved his verdict on the quantum of sentence. The Saket Court had directed the jail authorities to submit an affidavit containing all information about the convicts, including their background, behaviour in the past 15 years and their conduct in prison.

The court further sought a report from the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) in this connection, while directing the Principal Secretary to recruit someone for the purpose of making a pre-sentence report.

On October 18, ASJ Pandey had convicted all five accused in the death case of Soumya Vishwanathan.

The Saket Court had convicted Ravi Kapoor, Amit Shukla, Baljeet Malik and Ajay Kumar under Section 302 (murder) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Fifth accused Ajay Sethi was convicted under Section 411 (dishonestly receiving stolen property) of IPC.

While Kapoor, Shukla, Mallick and Kumar were held guilty of murder and loot, Sethi was held guilty of helping them.

All five were also convicted under relevant provisions of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA).

The ASJ said the prosecution had proved beyond reasonable doubt the charges against the accused. It will now hear the matter on quantum of sentence on October 26.

Police had arrested the accused in connection with the murder in March 2009 and they have remained behind the bars since.

Earlier on October 13, the ASJ had reserved his verdict in the case, giving time to both the parties for additional arguments or clarifications, if any. Both the defence and the prosecution had completed their arguments earlier this month.

The 25-year-old journalist was shot dead at Delhi’s Vasant Vihar area on September 30, 2008, while she was returning home from work in her car at around 3:30 am.

In its 620-page charge sheet filed in 2009, Delhi Police said that the motive behind the murder was robbery.

Police said that Soumya’s murder case was cracked after the recovery of the weapon used in the killing of IT Executive Jigisha Ghosh.

In August 2016, a trial court awarded death penalty to Kapoor and Shukla in the Jigisha Ghosh murder case. The trial court sentenced Malik to life imprisonment in the murder of the IT Executive.

The Delhi High Court commuted the death sentence awarded to Kapoor and Shukla to life imprisonment in 2018. Malik’s life imprisonment was upheld by the High Court.

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