Regretting that “only criminals are crying for justice in this country,” the Supreme Court on Monday upheld the conviction of Vikas Yadav, his cousin Vishal and Sukhdev Pehalwan in the 2002 Nitish Katara murder case.
A bench of justices J S Khehar and Adarsh Kumar Goel dismissed the appeals filed separately by Vikas and Sukhdev, noting that the Delhi High Court order “does not call for any intervention”. In its order, the bench confirmed the conviction for all three under charges of murder, criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence. The court, however, agreed to examine the quantum of sentence of the three convicts and issued a notice to the prosecution after considering their young age.
The high court in February had held that the murder of Nitish, who was in love with Vikas’s sister, was an honour killing carried out in a “very carefully planned and premeditated” manner with “extreme vengeance”.
It had sentenced Vikas and Vishal to life, with a stipulation that they undergo at least 30 years’ imprisonment without benefit of remission. Sukhdev was given 25 years in jail.
Appearing for Vikas, senior lawyer U R Lalit sought to discredit the testimony of Ajay Katara. He was a crucial witness, establishing that Nitish was “last seen” in the company of the three convicts before he disappeared. Nitish’s body was recovered later.
“All witnesses had resiled and only this man recorded his statement against the accused. But you want to demolish his testimony. Show us something glaring. Otherwise, we are not with you… he had shown overwhelming courage and you have not been able to dent his credibility,” said the bench, discarding Lalit’s argument.
Lalit also said the three convicts have been awarded life term for causing one injury on the victim’s head, prompting the bench to observe: “Such things happen in honour killings”. Showing the records, the court remarked that almost all the prosecution witnesses had gone back on their testimonies one after another and “this shows how much power you wielded”.
“Just imagine the kind of threat perception you created… Only criminals are crying for justice. What kind of fairness victims can expect?” the bench said.
The bench added that the convicts had been shown enough indulgence by the high court and now the apex court had also heard them adequately.
“This is a strange case. What kind of people are we? Even the girl in the case denies the relationship till it is established by her phone calls and cards sent to the boy. Everybody has resiled in the case. See the power you wielded,” it said.
Nitish’s mother Neelam told NDTV, “Nitish has got justice. This is a huge victory. I am vindicated, it’s a big day for all of us.”