Even as the Delhi high court on Wednesday convicted hired killer Pradeep Sharma for journalist Shivani Bhatnagar’s January 1999 murder, the mystery behind it has further deepened, as the prosecution failed to prove the motive and conspiracy behind the crime.
On the basis of “overwhelming scientific and circumstantial evidence”, a bench of justices BD Ahmad and Manmohan Singh held that “Pradeep Sharma was the person who killed Shivani Bhatnagar”.
But the court acquitted the main accused—suspended IPS officer RK Sharma—and two others, who were convicted by the trial court on March 18, 2008. But did Pradeep act alone? Did he act at the behest of RK Sharma and other accused? Or at the behest of someone else?
“These are questions we cannot answer on the basis of the material before us,” the bench said, putting a huge question mark on the Delhi Police’s investigation and the assistance by the prosecution that miserably failed to bring home the charge of criminal conspiracy.
There were also no call records of phone no. 6259071 (of a PCO) available to enable the court to verify if a call was made to 9811008825 belonging to accused Shri Bhagwan that day.
“The quality of evidence before us is not of high calibre... The key document... (relating to call records of accused Sri Bhagwan’s mobile phone that was allegedly used to call at Shivani’s landline on January 23, 1999) is riddled with so many problems that it can’t be relied upon,” the bench rued.
The call could only be verified from the records of Shivani’s landline. What is surprising is that the prosecution did not produce her landline call records. “So this alleged call...does not transcend the threshold of proof,” the court said.
The court also noted that there was no evidence that Satya Prakash had hired Pradeep and that a meeting between Pradeep, Prakash and Bhagwan was held on January 19,1999. The prosecution failed to establish any link between Sharma and the other accused.
So why did the prosecution leave a gaping hole in its conspiracy theory? The question remains unanswered.