Shivani Bhatnagar murder: HC acquits ex-IPS R K Sharma
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Almost 12 years after the sensational murder of Indian Express journalist Shivani Bhatnagar, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday acquitted former IPS officer Ravi Kant Sharma and two others.
The court, however, upheld the conviction and life sentence of the fourth accused, Pradeep Sharma, who had killed the scribe, then working with The Indian Express.
"Accused R K Sharma, Sri Bhagwan Sharma and Satya Prakash get the benefit of doubt. We, however, uphold the conviction of Pradeep Sharma in the case," said a Bench of Justices B D Ahmed and Manmohan Singh, deciding the appeals by the four against their conviction and sentence in the murder case.
Shivani Bhatnager was killed in her Navkunj Apartment flat at I P Extension in East Delhi on January 23, 1999.
A lower court had on March 24, 2008, convicted the four including R K Sharma, who had once served as officer on special duty in the Prime Minister's office. The trial court had acquitted co-accused Dev Prakash Sharma and Ved alias Kalu in the case.
R K Sharma and the other three appealed against the trial court verdict, sentencing them to life for plotting and executing Bhatnagar's killing.
The trial court held the Haryana cadre-officer colluded with the others to get Shivani killed as he feared she would ruin his social status by exposing their "intimate" relations.
Seeking Sharma's acquittal in the Delhi High Court, his counsel had argued there were several missing links, including call records. He also said records were tampered with to implicate his client. The lawyer had alleged the police fabricated call records records to trap Sharma.
Standing Counsel (Criminal) Pawan Sharma had, however, countered the defence by saying the accused was in a high position and had influenced witnesses, as a result of which 43 prosecution witnesses turned hostile in the case.