Exactly a year after commencement of hearing, the Delhi high court on Tuesday reserved its verdict on appeals of three persons against a lower court judgement awarding rigorous life imprisonment to them for abducting and killing Nitish Katara in 2002.
"Arguments concluded. Judgement reserved on appeals of convicted petitioners," a bench of justices Gita Mittal and J R Midha, which had started hearing the appeals on April 16 last year, said after senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, arguing for convict Vishal Yadav, concluded his submissions.
The court was hearing five appeals filed by three convicts against their conviction and one each from the prosecution and Neelam Katara, mother of the victim, seeking award of death penalty to the persons found guilty by the lower court.
It decided to segregate the appeals filed by the victim's mother and the prosecution from that of convicts and fixed them for directions on May 24.
During the hearing, Jethmalani termed as "atrocious" the non-examination of prosecution witness Kamal Kishore during the trial and said a "deception/fraud" was committed on the court by the prosecution.
The witness, who was later dropped by the prosecution, had earlier told the police that he had seen Vikas Yadav and an unknown person at New Delhi residence of D P Yadav, the father of Vikas and the then MP of Rajya Sabha, on the intervening night of February 16-17, 2002.
However, the lower court had relied on the testimony of other witness Ajay Katara who had seen victim Nitish in the company of all three accused in a car at Hapur Chungi near Ghaziabad on the night of the incident.
"In the light of the statement of PW-4 (prosecution witness) Kamal Kishore, accused no-2 (Vishal) was not in the company of other accused and the victim. Give me the benefit of doubt. I am entitled to acquittal and get the benefit of prosecution's case," Jethmalani said.
The senior lawyer said it was alleged that the accused along with two others had abducted the victim and then killed him.
"For establishing the offence of abduction, there has to be either use of force or fraud on the victim. However, in this case, none has been proved. If the charge of abduction fails, then murder charge must fail," he said.
Earlier, the prosecution and the counsel for Neelam Katara had wrapped up their arguments in the case by seeking enhancement of punishment awarded to the convicts in the case.
The police had said that the alleged delay of over a month in recording the statement of key witness Ajay Katara in the murder case did not make it "unbelievable" and "suspect."
The accused had alleged that Ajay Katara was "planted" as a witness by the police and cannot be believed as his statement was recorded on March 18, 2002 over a month after Nitish was killed.
Vikas, his cousin Vishal and Sukhdev Pehalwan are serving life term for abducting and killing Nitish Katara, a business execitive and son of an IAS officer, on the intervening night of February 16-17, 2002.
The Yadavs allegedly killed the victim as they did not approve his alleged affair with their sister Bharti Yadav. Vikas and Vishal were convicted by the trial court in 2008.
Their accomplice Pehlwan, who had absconded for some time but was arrested in 2005, was tried separately and sentenced to life term by the trial court.