The Delhi High Court on Monday granted bail to four convicts serving life imprisonment in the murder case of TV journalist Soumya Vishwanathan.
A bench of Justices Suresh Kumar Kait and Manoj Jain suspended the sentence of Ravi Kapoor, Amit Shukla, Baljeet Singh Malik, and Ajay Kumar till the pendency of their appeals challenging their conviction and sentence.
The bench noted that the convicts have been in custody for 14 years.
The high court had on January 23 asked the Delhi Police to respond to the appeals filed by the four convicts.
Vishwanathan, who worked with a leading English news channel, was shot dead in the early hours of September 30, 2008, on Nelson Mandela Marg in south Delhi while she was returning home from work in her car.
A special court had on November 26, 2023, awarded two life terms to Ravi Kapoor, Amit Shukla, Baljeet Malik, and Ajay Kumar under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 3(1)(i) (committing organized crime resulting in the death of any person) of the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA).
The court had made it clear that the sentences will run “consecutively”.
The fifth convict, Ajay Sethi, was handed down three years of simple imprisonment under section 411 (dishonestly receiving stolen property) of the IPC.
It, however, set off the three-year sentence against the time Sethi had already served, noting he remained in custody for more than 14 years and underwent incarceration during the trial for offenses under the IPC and MCOCA for conspiring to abet, aid, or knowingly facilitate organized crime and receiving proceeds of organized crime.
Kapoor’s counsel had submitted that he has been in custody for the last 14 years and nine months and urged the court to suspend his sentence during the pendency of the appeal.
A similar prayer for suspension of sentence was also made by advocate Amit Kumar, who represented Shukla, Malik, and Ajay Kumar.
While sentencing Kapoor, Shukla, Malik, and Kumar to double life imprisonment, the trial court had also imposed a fine of Rs 1.25 lakh on each of them. It had imposed a fine of Rs 7.25 lakh on Sethi.
Recently, the high court denied parole to Kapoor, considering the gravity of the offenses committed by him.
Out of the four convicts, Kapoor, Shukla, and Malik were also convicted of killing IT professional Jigisha Ghosh. The trio later confessed to police they were also behind Vishwanathan’s murder, and the weapon used for killing her was recovered from their possession.
The Delhi Police had said the motive behind Vishwanathan’s killing was robbery.
The trial court had awarded the death penalty to Kapoor and Shukla and sentenced Malik to life imprisonment in the 2009 Jigisha Ghosh murder case.
However, the death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by the high court. The high court upheld Malik’s life sentence.
According to the prosecution, Kapoor shot Vishwanathan with a country-made pistol while chasing her car to rob her. Shukla, Kumar, and Malik were also with Kapoor.
Police recovered the car used in the murder from Sethi alias Chacha.