A city court on Tuesday convicted senior Haryana police officer R.K. Sharma and three others in the 1999 Shivani Bhatnagar murder case.
The court ruled Sharma, a suspended inspector general of police, ordered the killing of Shivani when she threatened to expose their intimate relationship after being ignored by him.
Shivani, a journalist, was found murdered at her home in Navkunj Apartments, east Delhi, on January 23, 1999. She was 31 years old then.
Additional Sessions Judge Rajendra Kumar Shastri convicted the accused largely on the basis of circumstantial evidence. The court said telephonic conversations between Sharma and Shivani, and also between Sharma and co-convicts, completed the chain of circumstantial evidence proving their guilt beyond any doubt.
The court will hear arguments on the quantum of punishment, which may range from a life term to death, before the sentencing on March 20. Sharma’s counsel SP Minocha said they will go in appeal to the high court.
The judge found the close relationship between Sharma and Shivani to be the main motive behind the murder. He, however, blasted the defence counsel for raising fingers at Shivani’s character. “None, particularly the accused, has any right to challenge her (Shivani) personal liberty. Perhaps it shows that we have still not come out of the illusion of male chauvinism,” the judge said in his over 100-page verdict.
He said the prosecution had failed to prove that Sharma gave secret documents to Shivani when he was Officer on Special Duty in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Sharma, dressed in a pink T-shirt and brown trousers, stood stoic and emotionless as the judge passed his verdict. Just before the judge spoke, he chatted with journalists and some policemen present in the packed courtroom.
Three other accused — Sri Bhagwan Sharma, Pradeep Sharma and Satya Prakash — were found guilty of executing the police officer’s murder plot. Two other accused, Ved Prakash Sharma and Ved Prakash alias Kalu, were acquitted for want of evidence.