Impressed by RK Sharma’s “contribution to the society as an IPS”, a city court on Monday spared him the gallows and sentenced him to life imprisonment in the Shivani Bhatnagar murder case. The court gave the same sentence to three other convicts Pradeep, Shri Bhagwan and Satya Prakash.
Additional Sessions Judge RK Shastri, who discussed Sharma’s “distinguished services” to the country in detail, said the offence in question was not of the kind “which could shock the conscience of the society”. The suspended Haryana cadre IPS officer did not have any criminal history, he added.
Disagreeing with the prosecution’s plea for death sentence to Sharma, he said, “Except for crime in questions, RK Sharma was an asset to this nation. Sharma has got an excellent service record as a police officer and the extreme penalty was not needed in this case.”
Shastri, who had on March 18 convicted the suspended IPS officer and three others for plotting Shivani's murder and killing her at her east Delhi apartment on January 23, 1999, also imposed a fine of Rs 20,000 on Sharma and Rs 10,000 each on the other three convicts.
As the judge pronounced the verdict, Sharma dressed in a pink shirt and a brown trouser heaved a sigh of relief. Life imprisonment is the minimum punishment in a murder case. Sharma briefly interacted with media persons and lawyers before the pronouncement of the sentenced.
Special Public Prosecutor SK Saxena had sought death penalty for Sharma and Pradeep contending that the crime committed by them was “nothing but a pre-meditated act of cold-blooded murder”, that came under the ambit of the Supreme Court-set criteria of “rarest of rare case”.
Sharma’s counsel SP Minocha had, however, said, “Just because a journalist was allegedly killed by an IPS officer, it does not constitute an offence falling under the rarest of rare category calling for the maximum punishment. This was an ordinary murder except the fact that the victim was a reporter.”
Counsel for all the convicts said they will challenge the verdict in the high court. The prosecution also did not rule out approaching the higher court seeking death for Sharma and Pradeep.