The journalist was killed in January 1999 inside her Navkunj Apartment flat at IP Extension in east Delhi
Giving benefit of doubt and taking his service record into account, a two-judge division bench of Delhi High court on Wednesday acquitted former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Ravi Kant Sharma in the 1999 murder of journalist Shivani Bhatnagar.
Finding the track record of Sharma exemplary justices BD Ahmed and Manmohan Singh said the evidence was inconclusive and that the 'benefit of doubt' in the case should go to Sharma. While two others, Sri Bhagwan, Satya Prakash, accused in the same murder case have also been acquitted, the court upheld the life sentence for Pradeep Sharma, who actually killed Shivani.
The trial court had March 24, 2008, convicted the four of the murder and acquitted co-accused Dev Prakash Sharma and Ved alias Kalu. The four convicts, sentenced to life terms, appealed against the verdict before the high court, which reserved its verdict December 21 last year.
"The three appellants, RK Sharma, Sri Bhagwan Sharma and Satya Prakash, get the benefit of doubt and they stand acquitted of all charges," said the high court. The court's order came as a big relief for RK Sharma, who was languishing in jail for nearly over eight years. The three walked free from Tihar jail late Wednesday night.
Shivani, a journalist with the Indian Express, was murdered at her Navkunj Apartments flat at IP Extension in east Delhi Jan 23, 1999. Sharma had once served as officer on special duty in the Prime Minister's Office.