The Shivani Bhatnagar murder case was as big a challenge for the media covering the case as it was for the cops. Both had one from their fraternity involved in it. Shivani was a principal correspondent with The Indian Express when she was murdered in January 1999. Ravi Kant Sharma was a 1976 batch IPS officer.
The case was a potent mix of intrigue, deception, lies and having an investigative journalist and an IPS officer in its lead roles. The case hit the headlines once again when in July 2002, the Delhi Police crime branch claimed to have cracked the case and made the first arrest. What followed was a cat and mouse game between the cops and Sharma.
The chase, one of the longest and most dramatic, finished on September 27 that year when Sharma surrendered in Ambala. HT compiles some of the interesting details of the police’s nearly two-month-long chase and what subsequently happened in custody.Tip-off that helped Sharma escape?
Sri Bhagwan, son of a former Haryana police officer, was the first to be arrested on July 23, 2002. On August 1, 2002, Sharma had proceeded on leave. Early morning August 3, Delhi police raided Sharma’s residence. While the team had reached his residence at 6.45am, he had left it at 6.10am. This 35-minute gap made the Delhi police allege that Haryana Police had leaked information about the raid.
Sharma’s car in Delhi
As the entire police machinery was being channelised to nab Sharma, his car was spotted parked outside a five-star hotel in Delhi on the night of August 4-5. The man they had been looking for throughout the country was very much in Delhi. But by the time police reached the hotel, the car was gone.
Hunt enters 6th week
Senior officers were struck with the thought that Sharma might have changed appearance. Internally, crime branch circulated a confidential document, with various portraits of him if he sported a beard, shaved-off his head, sported a French beard.
His French googly
Court had granted permission to Sharma’s wife and daughter to meet him in police custody for 10 minutes daily. As a constable would be present when they would meet, the family would converse in French. Once his custody was over, Delhi Police came up with a shocker. The constable present in the meeting was no buffoon but an expert in French.
Ice creams for him
Sharma’s family had the police on backfoot. They alleged that despite knowing he was a Brahmin and vegetarian, he was being served eggs. Next googly was when he complained of a boil in his mouth and the concerned cops offered him ice creams and kheer.
Sharma complained about KK Paul
Then minister of state for home, ID Swami, had in an interview told this correspondent in September 2002 that “Sharma felt KK Paul was after him.” Paul had investigated the case as joint commissioner, crime branch. “Sharma was very relaxed when Paul was promoted because it meant that he was out of investigation.
Sharma came to see me in 2001. He told me that some Delhi Police officers were making things difficult for him,” Swami had said. Swami knew Sharma’s father, a Punjab Civil Services officer.