New Delhi | The fate of Vikas Yadav, his cousin Vishal and Sukhdev Pehalwan in the sensational 2002 Nitish Katara murder case were sealed today with the Supreme Court upholding their conviction, saying only criminals are crying for justice in this country. The apex court, which upheld the findings of the trial court and the Delhi High Court without issuing notices on the appeals of Vikas and Sukhdev, however, agreed to consider the limited aspect relating to enhancement of quantum of sentence of the three convicts by the High Court.
The High Court had termed the award of life term simplicitor to the convicts as inconsequential and enhanced the life term of three convicts — Vikas and Vishal Yadav to 30 years imprisonment and 25 years incarceration to Sukhdev Yadav alias Pehelwan — without the benefit of remission. The apex court bench, comprising Justices J S Khehar and Adarsh Kumar Goel, heard senior lawyers including U R Lalit for almost two hours before saying that the High Court order does not call for any intervention.
It, however, issued notice to the Delhi government on the scope of punishment and sought the reply within six weeks. At the outset, the moment Lalit opened his arguments saying the three convicts have been awarded life term for one injury on the head of the victim, the bench observed, in honour killings such things happen. The bench then referred to the fact that almost of all prosecution witnesses had resiled from their statements in the trial court and said, this shows how much power you wielded.
It trashed the submission that key prosecution witness Ajay Katara, who had last seen the victim alive in the company of the three accused in a Tata Safari car on the intervening night of February 16-17, 2002 at Hapur Chungi in Ghaziabad, was a planted and fabricated witness. All witnesses had resiled and only this man recorded his statement against the accused and you want to demolish his testimony, the bench said during the hearing, adding show us something glaring.
Otherwise, we are not with you. Lending credence to witness Katara, it said that he had shown overwhelming courage and if you (advocate) cannot dent Ajay Katara then we are not with you.
Lalit, however, tried hard to convince the bench and said that the witness, who lived in Shahadara, had his scooter broken down on the middle of road near Hapur Chungi around 12.30 am forcing the Tata Safari Car to stop behind him. The man, who does not remember the address of his rented house, reaches the police after a month of the incident and gives statement that he identifies the three accused whose photographs were all over, including television channels, Lalit said, reiterating that Ajay was a planted witness.
He also referred to the testimony of Investigating Officer Anil Samania to drive home the point that Ajay was lying. The court, however, trashed this argument also. On the allegation that defence lawyer was not allowed to ask material questions during the trial about the eye-sight of Ajay Katara, who deposed wearing sunglasses, the bench said, If he can drive a scooter in the middle of the night, if he can see the road, then he can see all of you. Nothing revolves on it.
Accusing the convicts of wasting judicial time, the bench said they had been given enough indulgence by the High Court. This is a strange case that is why we are hearing you. Otherwise, we would have thrown it half-an-hour back, the bench said during the hearing. You made all witnesses to resile. This man is standing. You want to demolish him. Even the girl denied everything till the time photographs and e-mails came up. Just imagine, the kind of threat perception, you created.
This country is going like this. Only criminals are crying for justice. What kind of fairness, he (convict) is expecting, the bench said. During entire hearing, the bench asked the convicts’ counsel several times to show one glaring defect in the high court order and the records and said, you prick our conscience, we are with you, otherwise, we are not with you.
The bench rejected the submission of Sukhdev Pehlwan saying that you are an honest servant of master (Yadavs), but your problem is that you helped them in the crime. … You will swim together or you will sink together. Earlier, the High Court had enhanced the life term of Vikas Yadav and his cousin Vishal to 25 years in jail without any remission and an additional five years for destruction of evidence in the honour killing of Nitish Katara in 2002.