Power of expression is the singular abstract notion that should matter to the concerned audience whenever he is reading or witnessing for that matter. On part of the raconteur, there are boundaries that shouldn’t be transgressed yet there are scribes imbued with a sense to tell the truth in its crudest forms. If you don’t like the stench, one can surely choose to blindfold eyes or clip your nostrils, the fact is that at least the zephyr has nodded to assimilate it all. Yet that unwarranted clash and its drastic consequences send shudders across, the instances telling blatantly to stay within the prescribed limits or else prepare to face the inclement weather.
October 12, 2011 saw Delhi High Court pronouncing its judgment in Shivani Bhatnagar murder case, acquitting the accused, former IPS officer R.K. Sharma, restaurant owner, Sri Bhagwan Sharma and Satya Prakash, proclaiming it as lack of evidence thus allowing them to go scot-free, R.K. Sharma has already spent nine years in dismal period of incarceration. One question that’s being raged vociferously is whether justice been eluded in Shivani Bhatnagar murder case!
This sensitive case hit the headlines on January 23, 1999 when Shivani was found murdered in her rented East Delhi apartment. The first series of arrest in the high-profile case was made in July, 2002 when Bhagwan Sharma, who was an aide of R.K. Sharma and son of an erstwhile Haryana Police officer, was nabbed by the police and then the hunt for the lord of these henchmen began. It was touted as a ‘crime of passion’ with factoids establishing an out-of-marriage affair between Shivani and R.K. Sharma. Ms. Bhatnagar was the Principal Correspondent with the Indian Express before becoming a prey to a heinous plot wherein she was stabbed and strangulated allegedly by men known to her, being evidenced by the tea that was prepared for the guests arriving at her home on the day of the murder.
When the search initiated by the Delhi Police and its stern measures of releasing R.K. Sharma’s picture along with a reward of Rs. 50,000 did sound like banshee, it was his wife, Madhu Sharma who was suddenly found crying hoarse, wailing and attracting the attention of the 24*7 media. Mrs. Sharma alleged that her husband was in fact being made scapegoat and her scathing allegations were soon targeted at the BJP poster boy, Pramod Mahajan. The political honcho discarded the entire thing as a mere ‘professional relationship’ agreeing to undergo any test if required in the wake of doubts being raised about Shivani’s four-year-old son.
Truly, dignity adhered to a woman’s character, her victimization and those who had committed the malfeasance, all seemingly complex and inter-woven factors seemed to be in contretemps with each other like never before. After a prolonged game of mouse and cat, R.K. Sharma finally surrendered in Ambala, and henceforth began a legal tussle that was based on call details, and arguments to support the prosecution’s contention. Though the prime accused has been let off by the High Court there are questions that remain unanswered.
As per the prosecution, Shivani had threatened to expose R.K. Sharma under the Official Secrets Act. What was so sensitive that this journo was harboring that could indeed prove to be contentious enough? One of Shivani’s friend, Sajjal Shah has given statement in court asserting that R.K. Sharma had met the deceased when Shivani was pursuing a course in London and he was OSD at PMO thus establishing links of a relation that went way back before Ms. Bhatnagar had probably ventured into the profession.
Seasoned legal practitioners have expressed their disapproval over the judgment with some of the former judges choosing to blackball the recent advancement. Justice Sodhi for instance says that he’s sorry for the judgment while Justice J.D. Kapoor opines that another probe should have been called for. The humorous part of this sordid saga is that though the killer Pradeep’s life sentence has been upheld, his motive behind the crime is still unknown.
Though the key document, ‘Ex. PW 135/28’ (the call records) was found riddled with many blips, yet it dawns to one that the 12-year long journey on the legal turf amidst many rife media speculations and fuelled by political influence has ended on a dead end. Though the boots might have been hung for sure yet it’s the scruples that demand more than has been delivered in this case.