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Delhi HC acquits RK Sharma
Shivani Bhatnagar murder
HC says prosecution couldn’t establish link between Sharma and the killer
Two co-accused also set free; third held guilty
Delhi Police to challenge verdict in Supreme Court
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, October 12
The Delhi High Court today acquitted former senior IPS officer Ravi Kant Sharma and two others in the 1999 murder of journalist Shivani Bhatnagar for lack of evidence, observing that the Delhi Police had failed to prove his involvement “beyond reasonable doubt”.

“The quality of evidence before us is not of a high caliber… Judges, unlike others who are free to arrive at their own conclusions, cannot and do not convict on the basis of mere suspicion. The prosecution has to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. We are afraid that the prosecution, in our view, has failed to do so,” a Division Bench of Justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Manmohan Singh ruled in their 84-page verdict.

As a result, RK Sharma and two of his co-accused, Shri Bhagwan Sharma and Satya Prakash “get the benefit of doubt and they stand acquitted of all charges,” the HC held.

All the three and fourth accused Pradeep Sharma, a hitman who killed Shivani, had been sentenced to life imprisonment by a trial court here on March 18, 2008. The HC upheld Pradeep’s conviction and sentence, saying the trial court had rightly convicted him of murder. It, however, clarified that the material on record was not sufficient to arrive at a conclusion whether Pradeep committed the crime on his own or acted at the behest of Sharma and the others.

At the time of the murder, RK Sharma was posted in Mumbai as Director (Vigilance), Air India. Sharma, who was also Inspector General (Prisons) in Haryana, came into contact with Shivani while he was working as an officer on special duty in the Prime Minister’s Office from July 2, 1997 to April 23, 1998.

According to the prosecution, Sharma and Shivani developed an intimate relationship and at one point of time, they had decided to get married after divorcing their respective spouses. However, Sharma lost interest in Shivani after she gave birth to a boy in October 1998. Unable to accept this, Shivani allegedly threatened to ruin his life and career, prompting Sharma to hatch a conspiracy to eliminate her.

The HC said the prosecution had mainly relied on the records of telephone calls between the accused, but this had several missing links. Seeking Sharma's acquittal, his counsel had argued there were several missing links, including the call records, in the chain of circumstances and the record was tampered with to implicate him. He cited lacunae in the transcript of phone calls between his client and other accomplices to substantiate his allegation that police had fabricated the call records.

“There is no evidence that Satya Prakash had engaged the services of Pradeep Sharma. There is no evidence that a meeting between Pradeep Sharma, Satya Prakash and Shri Bhagwan actually took place on January 19, 1999 (Shivani was murdered on January 23 the same year. There is no evidence that a sum of Rs 50,000 was paid by Shri Bhagwan to Pradeep Sharma or that the latter had agreed to do the job for a sum of Rs 3 lakh and other favours. The only link is the relationship between Satya Prakash and Pradeep Sharma, but that alone is insufficient for linking Satya Prakash and the rest with the crime,” the court noted.

According to the prosecution, Pradeep Sharma and Satya Prakash went to Shivani’s Navkunj Apartment flat at Patparganj in East Delhi on January 23, 1999 and stabbed her to death.

Setting aside the trial court verdict in the case of RK Sharma and two others, the HC ordered their release immediately.

prosecution story

RK Sharma and Shivani developed an intimate relationship and decided to get married after divorcing their respective spouses. Shivani gave birth to a child in Oct 1998 and asked her sister to inform Sharma. However, he had lost interest in her by then. Unable to accept this, Shivani ‘threatened’ to ruin his life and career, prompting Sharma to hatch a plot to eliminate her. She was killed on Jan 23, 1999


Pradeep Sharma. HC says the trial court rightly convicted him of murder

The motive

Unclear. HC says material on record insufficient to conclude whether he committed the crime on his own or acted at the behest of RK Sharma and others


  • No evidence that Satya Prakash engaged the services of Pradeep Sharma
  • No evidence Pradeep, Satya and Shri Bhagwan met on Jan 19, 1999, four days before Shivani’s killing
  • No evidence that Shri Bhagwan paid Pradeep `50,000 or that Pradeep had agreed to kill Shivani for `3 lakh
  • The only established link: Satya and Pradeep knew each other, but that alone is insufficient to link Satya and the rest with the crime





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