By FnF Correspondent | PUBLISHED: 18, Oct 2023, 17:11 pm IST | UPDATED: 18, Oct 2023, 17:11 pm IST
In a major development, a Delhi court on Wednesday handed down convictions to five accused in connection with the 2008 murder of journalist Soumya Vishwanathan. The court held Ravi Kapoor, Amit Shukla, Baljit Mallik, and Akshay Kumar guilty of both murder and robbery. Additionally, Ajay Sethi, the fifth accused, was found guilty of aiding and abetting the others in the crime.
The accused were convicted not only for the murder but also under the provisions of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act. All the accused, who had been in custody since March 2009 when they were arrested on the murder charge, were found guilty of robbery. During the pronouncement of the verdict, the court emphasized that there was no doubt the accused had murdered Saumya Vishwanathan with the intent to rob her. “It’s beyond doubt that the accused murdered Saumya Vishwanathan with the intention to rob her,” the court said while delivering the verdict.
The trial had seen various twists and turns. After the conclusion of the hearing in July 19, 2016, at Saket Court, the judgment was reserved for the subsequent hearing. However, the final verdict was delayed multiple times due to legal complexities and other legal hurdles.
Soumya Vishwanathan was a 25-year-old journalist whose life was tragically cut short on September 30, 2008, in Delhi's Vasant Vihar. Her lifeless body was discovered in her car, having suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the head. The dreadful incident occurred around 3.30 AM while she was driving home after work.
Forensic examination and reports confirmed that Soumya Vishwanathan's cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head, setting off a murder investigation. The police findings suggested she was being followed, and the fatal shot was presumably fired from another moving vehicle.
CCTV footage traced Soumya's movements in the vicinity, revealing a maroon car tailing hers. Mumbai-based crime branch teams were promptly summoned, and an extensive search operation was launched to gather further evidence.
In March 2009, Delhi police apprehended two suspects, Ravi Kapoor and Amit Shukla, initially in connection with the murder of call centre executive Jigisha Ghosh. During the subsequent confrontation, Kapoor and Shukla shockingly confessed to the murder of Soumya, describing it as a "thrilling activity." The investigation further revealed that the maroon car captured in the CCTV footage was utilized in both heinous crimes.
In June 2010, Delhi Police filed a charge sheet implicating Ravi Kapoor, Amit Shukla, and two other suspects, Baljeet Malik and Ajay Sethi, in the murder. The trial proceedings in Soumya's case commenced on November 16, 2010, at Saket Court.
Key forensic evidence, including ballistics matching bullets to the firearm owned by the perpetrators, surveillance footage, and confessions of the accused, were presented during the extensive trial. The defense raised concerns about 'confessions under duress' and the 'reliability of forensic evidence,' attempting to question the prosecution's narrative.
The Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) was invoked against the accused. Three of the convicted individuals - Malik, Kapoor, and Shukla - were also found guilty in the 2009 killing of IT executive Jigisha Ghosh.
The case took a significant turn towards justice in 2009 with the recovery of Jigisha's murder weapon. Progressing further, a common accused in both cases confessed his involvement in Soumya's murder during the Jigisha murder case hearing. In August 2016, the trial court handed down the death penalty to Ravi Kapoor and Amit Shukla, along with a life term for Baljeet Malik in the Jigisha Ghosh murder case. However, in January 2018, the high court commuted the death sentences of Kapoor and Shukla to life imprisonment while upholding Malik's life term.
The recent convictions provide a sense of closure to the harrowing murder case that shook the journalistic and legal communities alike. The journey to justice has been long and arduous, but this verdict marks a significant step towards accountability for the perpetrators.