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Mother of Slain Journalist Challenges Convicts' Bail in SC

Mother of Slain Journalist Challenges Convicts' Bail in SC

Soumya Viswanathan's mother has taken her case to the Supreme Court, contesting the bail granted to four individuals serving life sentences for her daughter's 2008 murder.

On February 12, the Delhi High Court suspended the sentences of Ravi Kapoor, Amit Shukla, Baljeet Singh Malik, and Ajay Kumar, granting them bail while their appeals contesting their conviction and sentence are pending.

Kapoor, Shukla, and Malik, who were also convicted in the 2009 Jigisha Ghosh murder case, are still in jail.

Soumya Viswanathan, employed with a prominent English news channel, was fatally shot in the early hours of September 30, 2008, on Nelson Mandela Marg in south Delhi as she was driving home from work.

A bench comprising Justices Bela M Trivedi and Pankaj Mithal from the top court is expected to hear the petition filed by Soumya's mother, Madhavi Viswanathan.

In granting relief to the convicts, the high court observed that they had 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.

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 organised 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." Ajay Sethi, the fifth convict, received a three-year simple imprisonment sentence under section 411 of the IPC for dishonestly receiving stolen property.

However, the court offset the three-year sentence against the time Ajay Sethi had already served, considering his more than 14 years in custody. Sethi had been incarcerated during the trial for offenses under the IPC and MCOCA, including conspiring to abet, aid, or knowingly facilitate organized crime and receiving proceeds of organized crime.

Kapoor's counsel highlighted that he had been in custody for the past 14 years and nine months, urging the court to suspend his sentence pending appeal. Similarly, advocate Amit Kumar, representing Shukla, Malik, and Ajay Kumar, made a similar plea for the suspension of their sentences. The trial court had sentenced Kapoor, Shukla, Malik, and Kumar to double life imprisonment and imposed a fine of ₹1.25 lakh on each of them. Additionally, Sethi was fined ₹7.25 lakh.

Among the four convicts, Kapoor, Shukla, and Malik were also found guilty of the murder of IT professional Jigisha Ghosh. They confessed to the police their involvement in Vishwanathan's murder, with the weapon used recovered from their possession. According to the Delhi Police, the motive behind Vishwanathan's killing was robbery. In the Jigisha Ghosh murder case, the trial court sentenced Kapoor and Shukla to death and Malik to life imprisonment.

The high court commuted the death sentence of Kapoor and Shukla to life imprisonment but upheld Malik's life sentence. As per the prosecution's account, Kapoor shot Vishwanathan with a country-made pistol during a robbery attempt while chasing her car. Shukla, Kumar, and Malik were accomplices present with Kapoor during the incident. The police retrieved the car used in the murder from Sethi, also known as Chacha.

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