Vikas and Vishal Yadav, who are currently serving a 30-year-long jail sentence for brutally killing Nitish Katara in 2002, escaped the death penalty on Friday, with the Supreme Court rejecting the plea of the victim’s mother Neelam Katara calling it a ‘rarest of rare’ crime.
“What they (Yadavs) did cannot be condoned, but it (the offence) is not so heinous and abhorring that it warrants death,” a bench of Justices J S Khehar and R Banumathi said.
The bench, which had recently dismissed several special leave petitions of Vikas, Vishal and Sukhdev Pehalwan against the Delhi high court verdict in the case, did not agree with the submission of the representative of Neelam Katar, senior advocate Harish Salve, that the two convicts deserved the death penalty.
“I don’t see it as honour killing,” the bench observed at the outset when Salve opened arguments on the plea seeking enhancement of the sentence, saying that the high court had described the 2002 murder as a honour killing.
“I am asking for death penalty,” the senior lawyer said, adding that the convicts, who were educated and hailed from “good families”, had killed the youth in pre-meditated and brutal manner and mutilated the body before burning it.
The court said that the convict’s sister Bharti Yadav had even gone to the victim’s house to deliver the invitation card of her sister’s wedding and it cannot be said that the family of the convicts did not approve the relationship.
The “trigger” potentially was the moment when the convicts saw her dancing with Nitish and took him away and killed him, the court said, adding that every murder is brutal but it is difficult to say it is “abhorring”.
“It was just a murder. That is it... They (convicts) have also suffered the sentence for 16 years,” it said, adding that the manner of disposal of the body fell under the IPC provision dealing with destruction of evidence.
Vikas (39), Vishal (37) and Sukhdev (40) are serving life term sentences awarded by the lower court in May 2008 for abducting and killing Katara, a business executive and the son of a railway officer, on the night of February 16, 2002, as they opposed the victim’s affair with Bharti, daughter of Uttar Pradesh politician DP Yadav.