Today, the Delhi High Court approved bail for four individuals who had been sentenced to life imprisonment in connection with the murder case involving TV journalist Soumya Vishwanathan.
A bench consisting of Justices Suresh Kumar Kait and Manoj Jain has temporarily halted the imprisonment of Ravi Kapoor, Amit Shukla, Baljeet Singh Malik, and Ajay Kumar while their appeals contesting their conviction and sentence are ongoing.
The bench observed that the convicts have been held in custody for a period of 14 years.
On January 23, the high court had directed the Delhi Police to provide a response to the appeals submitted by the four convicts. Soumya Vishwanathan, an employee of a prominent English news channel, was fatally shot in the early hours of September 30, 2008, while driving home on Nelson Mandela Marg in south Delhi after completing her work duties.
On November 26, 2023, a special court sentenced Ravi Kapoor, Amit Shukla, Baljeet Malik, and Ajay Kumar to two life terms each 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 Organised Crime Act (MCOCA).
The court explicitly stated that the sentences would run "consecutively." Additionally, the fifth convict, Ajay Sethi, was given a three-year term of simple imprisonment under section 411 (dishonestly receiving stolen property) of the IPC.
However, the court offset the three-year sentence against the duration Ajay Sethi had already spent in custody, recognizing that he had been detained for over 14 years. Sethi had undergone imprisonment during the trial for offenses under the IPC and MCOCA, which included conspiring to abet, aid, or knowingly facilitate organized crime and receiving proceeds of organized crime.
Kapoor's legal representative had presented that he has been held in custody for the past 14 years and nine months, emphasizing this point to the court and requesting the suspension of his sentence while the appeal is pending.
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 also imposed a fine of ₹ 1.25 lakh on each of them. It had imposed a fine of ₹ 7.25 lakh on Sethi.
Recently, the high court declined to grant parole to Kapoor, citing the severity of the crimes he committed. Among the four convicts, Kapoor, Shukla, and Malik were additionally found guilty of the murder of IT professional Jigisha Ghosh. Subsequently, the trio confessed to the police their involvement in Vishwanathan's murder as well, and the weapon used in her killing 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's case, Kapoor fired at Vishwanathan using a country-made pistol while pursuing her car with the intention of robbing her. Shukla, Kumar, and Malik were also present alongside Kapoor during the incident.
Police recovered the car used in the murder from Sethi, alias Chacha.
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