New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday awarded Nitish Katara murder convicts Vikas Yadav and his cousin Vishal Yadav 25 years in prison, reducing their term from 30 years.
The brothers’ aide Sukhdev Pehalwan, also convicted in the case, was sentenced to 25 years.
Furthermore, the apex court ordered that the jail sentences would run concurrently, not consecutively.
A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and C Nagappan pronounced the verdict on the appeals filed by Vikas and Vishal against the Delhi High Court order which had enhanced the life term to 25 years in jail without remission and an additional five years for destruction of evidence in the case by terming the murder of Katara as “honour killing”.
Yadavs’ acquaintance Sukhdev Yadav alias Pehelwan was also awarded an enhanced life sentence of 25 years without remission by the court which held that the crime fell in “rarest of rare category”, but saved them from the gallows saying possibility of their reformation and rehabilitation is not “unforseeably foreclosed”.
Reacting to the verdict, Nitish Katara’s mother Neelam Katara said she was ‘qualitatively happy’ with the Supreme Court decision. However she added that it would not be a big deal if she asked for 10 years more punishment.
The Supreme Court had on August 17, 2015, upheld the conviction of Vikas, Vishal and Sukhdev, saying “only criminals are crying for justice” in this country.
While upholding the conviction, the apex court had said that it will separately consider hearing pleas on the limited aspect relating to enhancement of quantum of sentence of the three convicts by the High Court.
It had issued notice to the Delhi government on the scope of punishment and sought the reply within six weeks.
Earlier, the high court had held that the murder of Katara, who was in love with Vikas’s sister, was an “honour killing” which was done in a “very carefully planned and premeditated” manner with “extreme vengeance”.
It had also enhanced the fines imposed on Vikas and Vishal by slapping an amount of Rs 54 lakh each on them, to be deposited in the trial court within six weeks.
Vikas (39), Vishal (37) and Sukhdev (40) were serving life term awarded by the lower court in May 2008 for abducting and killing Katara, a business executive and the son of a railway officer, on the night of February 16-17, 2002, as they opposed the victim’s affair with Bharti, daughter of Uttar Pradesh politician D P Yadav.
The high court had on April 2, 2014, upheld the verdict of the lower court in the case by describing the offence as “honour killing” stemming from a “deeply-entrenched belief” in caste system.
Katara was abducted and killed by Vikas, Vishal and Sukhdev as they did not approve of the victim’s affair with Bharti because they belonged to different castes, the court said.