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Nitish Katara murder: SC questions Vikas Yadav's plea on award of sentence


Press Trust of India New Delhi
Vikas Yadav, undergoing 25-year jail term for killing business executive Nitish Katara in 2002, moved the Supreme Court Monday challenging a Constitution Bench verdict which held that courts can specify the length jail of term for murder convicts.
The move prompted the top court to ask Yadav whether he can challenge through a fresh plea the validity of a verdict which has already attained finality.
On October 3, 2016 the Supreme Court had awarded 25-year jail term without any benefit of remission to Yadav and his cousin Vishal for their role in the sensational kidnapping and killing of Katara. Another co-convict Sukhdev Pehalwan was also handed down 20- year jail term.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Rajan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna was hearing the fresh plea by Yadav alleging that "no special category of sentence in substitution to the life sentence or the death penalty could be imposed upon the persons guilty of offence of murder under section 302 of the IPC".
It said: "Tell us how can we re-open this issue by entertaining your writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution in view of the Constitution Bench judgement which had said that the courts are empowered to award sentence for a fixed period without any benefit of remission (to a convict)."

It further said that Yadav was seeking review of the judgement by filing a fresh plea and questioned his move. "Your grievance seemed to be against the Constitution bench judgement and can you do this by filing a fresh writ petition".
The bench, which did not issue any notice to the parties including the Union ministries of home affairs and law and justice as also Neelam Katara, mother of the victim, adjourned the hearing and ordered listing of the plea after three months.
Yadav has sought striking down of section 53 (punishment of life and death and to which offenders are liable under the provision of the code) and section 45 (life) of the IPC on the ground that they are violative of Articles 14 (equality before law) and 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) of Constitution.
He alleged that punishment provided in the IPC for the offence of murder was either the life term or the death penalty and any specification of the fixed jail term that too without any remission by carving out a special category was violative of his fundamental rights.
The Delhi High Court, while upholding the life imprisonment awarded to Vikas and Vishal Yadav by the trial court, had specified the jail term and had awarded 30 year sentence, without any remission, to both of them. It had awarded 25 year jail term to third convict Pehalwan.
The apex court, however, had modified the award of 30 year jail term, saying that the 25 year imprisonment for the offence of murder and five year jail term for causing destruction of evidence, would run concurrently and not consecutively.
It had also scaled down the jail term of 25 years to 20 years to be awarded to third co-convict Sukhdev Pehalwan in the case by holding that the imprisonment for separate offences would not run consecutively but concurrently.
The bench had already dismissed the appeals against their convictions in the case for kidnapping Katara from a marriage party on the intervening night of February 16-17, 2002 before killing him for his alleged affair with Bharti Yadav, sister of Vikas, because they belonged to different castes.

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First Published: Feb 25 2019 | 7:15 PM IST

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