New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has granted bail to four convicts serving life imprisonment in the murder case of TV journalist Soumya Vishwanathan. Justices Suresh Kumar Kait and Manoj Jain suspended the sentence of Ravi Kapoor, Amit Shukla, Baljeet Singh Malik, and Ajay Kumar pending the outcome of their appeals challenging their conviction and sentence.
The bench took note of the fact that the convicts have already spent 14 years in custody. Earlier, on January 23, the Delhi Police were directed by the high court to respond to the appeals filed by the four convicts.
Soumya Vishwanathan, an employee of a prominent English news channel, was shot dead in the early hours of September 30, 2008, on Nelson Mandela Marg in south Delhi while driving home from work.
In a special court ruling on November 26, 2023, Ravi Kapoor, Amit Shukla, Baljeet Malik, and Ajay Kumar were handed two life terms under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 3(1)(i) (committing organized crime resulting in death) of the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA).
The court specified that the sentences would be served "consecutively".
The fifth convict, Ajay Sethi, received three years of simple imprisonment under Section 411 (dishonestly receiving stolen property) of the IPC.
However, the three-year sentence was offset against the time Sethi had already served, considering he had been in custody for over 14 years and had undergone incarceration during the trial for offenses under the IPC and MCOCA related to conspiring to abet, aid, or knowingly facilitate organized crime and receiving proceeds of organized crime.
During the trial, Kapoor's counsel argued that he had been in custody for the past 14 years and nine months, requesting the court to suspend his sentence pending the appeal. A similar plea for suspension of sentence was made by advocate Amit Kumar, representing Shukla, Malik, and Ajay Kumar.
In addition to double life imprisonment, Kapoor, Shukla, Malik, and Kumar were each fined ₹1.25 lakh, while Sethi was fined ₹7.25 lakh.
Recently, the high court refused parole to Kapoor, taking into account the gravity of the offenses committed by him.
Kapoor, Shukla, and Malik were also convicted of killing IT professional Jigisha Ghosh, with Kapoor and Shukla initially receiving the death penalty, later commuted to life imprisonment by the high court. The high court upheld Malik's life sentence.
According to the prosecution, Kapoor shot Vishwanathan with a country-made pistol while chasing her car to rob her. Shukla, Kumar, and Malik were also present with Kapoor during the incident. The police recovered the car used in the murder from Sethi alias Chacha.