The Delhi High Court today acquitted former senior IPS officer Ravi Kant Sharma and two others in the sensational killing of journalist Shivani Bhatnagar in 1999.
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.
R.K Sharma. PIC/AFP
"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.
The lower court had on March 24, 2008, convicted four persons including R K Sharma, who had once served as officer on special duty in the Prime Minister's office.
The trial court, however, had acquitted co-accused Dev Prakash Sharma and Ved alias Kalu in the case.
The high court in its decision acquitted three out of four convicts including the former IPS officer
A trial court had sentenced Sharma and the three to life imprisonment in March 2008.
The bench had reserved its verdict on December 21 last year on appeals by Sharma and three other convicts who were serving life term in Tihar Jail.
Seeking Sharma's acquittal, his counsel had argued there were several missing links, including the call records, in the chain of circumstances and the record was tampered with to implicate him.
The lawyer had cited lacunae in the transcript of the mobile phone calls between his client and other accomplices to substantiate his allegation that police had fabricated the call records.
Standing Counsel (Criminal) Pawan Sharma had, however, countered the defence submission by saying that the accused was holding a high position and had influenced the witnesses, as a result of which 43 prosecution witnesses turned hostile in the case.
According to prosecution, Sharma had provided certain classified documents to Shivani that led to her murder as the journalist wanted to make the documents public.