The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the conviction of Vikas Yadav, his cousin Vishal and Sukhdev Pehalwan in the 2002 Nitish Katara murder case saying it was “convinced” of their involvement in the sensational crime. Vikas and Vishal are son and nephew of UP politician DP Yadav.
“All of you three are together in this… We are very satisfied in our mind that you have done it,” a bench Justice JS Khehar and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel remarked while upholding the findings of the trial court and the Delhi High Court.
“The impugned order (of the Delhi HC) calls for no interference. The conviction of the three petitioners is accordingly confirmed,” the bench said.
The top court, however, agreed to consider the aspect related to enhancement of quantum of sentence of the three convicts by the High Court. It issued notice to the prosecution asking it to respond within six weeks.
The HC on February 6 had enhanced the sentence for Vikas and his cousin Vishal from life imprisonment to 25 years without remission for the murder of Nitish Katara and five more years for destruction of evidence in the case. It had sent Sukhdev Pehelwan to 25 years incarceration without the benefit of remission.
The three were awarded life term by a trial court for abducting and killing Katara, a business executive and son of an IAS officer as they did not approve of the victim's affair with DP Yadav's daughter Bharti.
The HC had on April 2, 2014 upheld the verdict of the lower court in the case, describing the offence as "honour killing" stemming from a "deeply-entrenched belief" in caste system.
Justice Khehar headed bench also dismissed senior counsel UR Lalit’s submission that key prosecution witness Ajay Katara was a "planted and fabricated" witness.
In his testimony, Ajay Katara had said on the intervening night of February 16-17, 2002 at Hapur Toll Tax Crossing in Ghaziabad he saw the victim alive in the company of the accused in a Tata Safari car.
All witnesses had resiled except Ajay Katara and "you want to demolish" his testimony, the bench said asking the senior counsel to "show one glaring contradiction".
It referred to the fact that almost of all prosecution witnesses had "resiled" from their statements in the trial court and said, "this shows how much power you wielded".
It said the petitioners had been given enough "indulgence" by the High Court and they were wasting "judicial" time.