NEW DELHI: Vikas Yadav and his cousin Vishal, convicted for the abduction and murder of 25-year-old Nitish Katara in 2002, will serve 25 years in prison each, the Supreme Court ruled today.
It has sentenced their associate Sukhdev Pehalwan to 20 years in prison.
The Yadav cousins and Pehalwan had appealed in the top court against an order of the Delhi High Court, which had in February last year sentenced the Yadavs to 25 years in jail without remission and their aide to 20 years, with an additional five years each for destruction of evidence.
The Supreme Court said today that those sentences would run concurrently and not one after the other as the High Court had ordered, effectively reducing the prison terms for each of them by five years.
Nitish Katara’s mother Neelam Katara, who has battled hard for justice, said she was satisfied that the court had upheld many more years of punishment for her sons killers than the 14 years usually awarded in a life sentence.
“We wanted the death sentence, but am happy that the court acknowledged that this was not normal murder but an honour killing by rich people drunk on power,” Ms Katara said, adding, “Of course I wish they had got 10 years more. The evidence they destroyed was my son’s body, not a pair of slippers.”
Nitish Katara, a 25-year-old executive, was kidnapped and burnt to death in Ghaziabad near Delhi in 2002. He was dating Bharti Yadav, the daughter of a politician DP Yadav. Nitish and Bharti were at a wedding when Mr Katara was abducted by Ms Bharti’s brother Vikas Yadav and their cousin Vishal.
The High Court had called it an “honour killing” and said the crime was in the “rarest of rare category,” awarding the convicts the lengthy prison term. But it refused to award them the death sentence, saying the possibility of their reformation and rehabilitation is not “unforseeably foreclosed”.
The top court had last year upheld the conviction of the three men, observing that “only criminals are crying for justice” in this country. But it had also rejected a petition by Neelam Katara that they be given the death penalty.