The Supreme Court on Monday sentenced Vikas Yadav and his cousin Vishal, convicted of killing business executive Nitish Katara who was in a relationship with their sister, to 25 years in jail, reducing the sentence by five years.
A bench headed by justice Dipak Misra modified the punishment given by the Delhi high court that had in 2014 ordered the cousins to serve a 25-year life term without remission and another five years for destruction of evidence.
“We do not accept the argument of the petitioners that the high court has no power to grant such a sentence without remission but accept the argument that punishment for murder and destruction of evidence need not run consecutively,” the court ruled.
The 39-year-old Vikas, the son of powerful Uttar Pradesh politician DP Yadav, and Vishal, 37, will remain in jail till 2027 as they have already spent 14 years behind bars.
Neelam Katara, who fought a long battle to get justice for her son, said she was satisfied that the court had upheld many more years of punishment for her Nitish’s killers than the 14 years usually awarded in a life sentence.
Yadavs’ aide, contract killer Sukhdev Pehelwan, too, will serve a reduced 20-year jail term.
A lower court had in May 2008 found Vikas, Vishal and Sukhdev guilty of kidnapping and burning to death 25-year-old Katara in 2002. The cousins didn’t approve of their sister Bharti’s relationship with Katara, who came from a different caste.
The SC upheld the high court’s view that the murder was an honour killing driven by caste bias.
The apex court said the murder was planned in a cold blooded manner “with the motive that has emanated due to feeling of some kind uncalled for and unwarranted superiority based on caste feeling that has blinded the thought of ‘choice available’ to a sister -- a representative of women as a class”.
In murdering Nitish, who was their sister’s choice, Vikas and Vishal had displayed a medieval mindset, said the court, which had last year upheld the trio’s conviction but agreed to hear their plea for a reduced sentence.
“Neither the family members nor the members of the collective has any right to assault the boy chosen by the girl. Her individual choice is her self-respect and creating dent in it is destroying her honour,” it said.