Delhi High Court Suspends Life Sentence of Four Men Convicted in Journalist Soumya Vishwanathan's Murder Case

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Soumya Vishwanathan, a journalist with India Today, was tragically found dead in her car in Vasant Kunj in September 2008, with forensic reports indicating a fatal bullet wound to her head. Police investigations revealed that Vishwanathan was returning home late at night from her office when she was allegedly chased and shot

The Delhi High Court on Monday suspended the life sentences of four individuals convicted for the murder of journalist Soumya Vishwanathan in 2008.

Justices Suresh Kumar Kait and Girish Kathpalia granted bail to the convicts, Ravi Kapoor, Amit Shukla, Ajay Kumar, and Baljeet Malik, citing their nearly 14 years and 9 months of imprisonment.

The bench has suspended the sentences of the four men till the pendency of their appeals challenging their conviction and sentence.

Last month, the court had asked the Delhi Police to respond to appeals filed by four convicts in the case of the murder of journalist Soumya Vishwanathan, challenging their conviction and life sentence. 

While issuing notice to the police on the appeals by Ravi Kapoor, Amit Shukla, Baljit Singh Malik, and Ajay Kumar. The court had also asked the authorities to file a reply to the convicts' interim application seeking suspension of their sentence. The bench had directed the jail authorities to send the nominal roll of the applicants. 

On November 24, 2023, Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ), Ravindra Kumar Pandey of Saket Court, awarded two life imprisonments to Ravi Kapoor, Amit Shukla, Baljeet Malik, and Ajay Kumar under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and under Section 3 (1) (1) of The Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (committing organised crime resulting in the death of any person) and made clear that they will run "consecutively."

While ordering the quantum of punishment, the ASJ had said the offence does not fall in the category of the rarest of rare cases. "So requests for the death penalty is refused", it said.

Ravi Kapoor, Amit Shukla, Baljeet Malik, and Ajay Kumar have been sentenced to life imprisonment. The fifth convict, Ajay Sethi, has been sentenced to simple imprisonment for three years.

Soumya Vishwanathan was shot dead on September 30, 2008, while returning home from work in her car around 3:30 AM. Police had claimed robbery was the motive behind her killing. 

Five people, namely Ravi Kapoor, Amit Shukla, Baljeet Malik, Ajay Kumar, and Ajay Sethi, were arrested for killing her and put in custody in March 2009. 

The police had invoked the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) provisions against the accused.  Malik and two others, Ravi Kapoor and Amit Shukla, were earlier convicted in the 2009 killing of IT executive Jigisha Ghosh.

The recovery of the weapon used in Jigisha Ghosh’s killing had led to the cracking of the murder case of Vishwanathan, police said. The trial court had awarded the death penalty to Kapoor and Shukla and a life term to Malik in the Jigisha Ghosh murder case in 2017.

Case Title: Ravi Kapoor v. The State(NCT of Delhi) along with connected matters