Neelam Katara betrayed none of the inner turmoil. It was a big day on Wednesday and it was over even before it had started. Killers of her son Nitish Katara had been found guilty. She showed no emotions.
Katara stepped out of the courtroom and walked into a bank of television cameras and microphones. She hugged a few women reporters whom she had gotten to know during the snail-like progress of the trial.
“Nitish must be very pleased up there somewhere,” she said, “he must be saying ‘Mom you have proved yourself’.” Nitin, brother of the deceased, said, “Our fight was also against the mindset. It is a message for youth across the world.”
Nitish was killed six years ago on the night of February 16 and 17 in 2002.
A trial court on Wednesday found Vikas Yadav and his cousin Vishal Yadav guilty of killing Nitish. They were accused of killing Nitish as he was seeing Vikas’s sister Bharti Yadav, and the family didn’t approve.
The six-year long trial, which started in Ghaziabad but shifted to Delhi on Neelam Katara’s plea, ended most suddenly on Wednesday. Additional judge Ravinder Kaur took barely six minutes to pronounce the verdict.
“I convict you under section 302 (murder), 364 (abduction), 201 (destruction of evidence) and 34 (common intention) of IPC,” said Kaur. The sentencing has been scheduled for Friday.
The maximum punishment they can get is death, if the court is convinced it was a “rarest of rare case”. Otherwise, they are looking at life, which doesn’t mean 14 years any more — it means the rest of the life.
This is one of the four high-profile cases that the entire country has been following very closely — the others are Jessica Lall murder case, the Priyadarshini Mattoo case and the Shivani Bhatnagar murder case.
Vikas’s father D.P. Yadav is a powerful Uttar Pradesh politician. He said after the verdict, “This is to politically destroy me.” In fact, he was taken completely by surprise by the pronouncement.
Yadav said he was in Delhi high court with his lawyer waiting for a hearing on a related case - whether or not the testimony of a key witness in the Nitish Katara murder case should be entertained.
By the time Yadav made it to Patiala House trial courts, his son and nephew were on their way to jail. The convicts' counsel said they would challenge the trial court order in the Delhi High Court at the earliest.
Neelam Katara said she is quite prepared to fight this right up to the Supreme Court. She knows Yadav won't give up easily - after all Vikas is his son. And Katara won't give up too - Nitish was her son.
Nitish was last seen at a Ghaziabad marriage party on the night of February 16. Vishal asked him to step out of the party for a bit. He was pushed into an SUV, taken to a secluded spot and killed.
An employee of the Yadav family - Sukhdev Pehelwan, helped the two cousins. He is being tried separately. They had tried to burn the body, which was found in an unrecognizable condition from Khurja in UP. The duo went on the run after that. They were arrested seven days later from a railway station in Madhya Pradesh. Shortly they led the police to the weapons used to kill Nitish. It should have been easy here on.
But progress in the case slowed down drastically as a key prosecution witness - Bharti Yadav - was no longer in India; she had left to study in London. It took almost two years to get her back to depose.
And it was her account that nailed her brother and cousin, though she turned hostile—refusing to confirm prosecution's claim she was seeing Nitish—she did own up the "love letters" she wrote to Nitish.
The judge observed in her 1100-page order: "On one hand she has denied her intimate relationship with the deceased, on the other she admitted writing love letters to him reflecting their relationship."
But the judge was not letting Bharti off easily. She wrote in the order: "She did not do justice to the soul of deceased without whom she had claimed she could not survive." Will she be able to live this down?