The Delhi High Court on Wednesday upheld a verdict awarding life imprisonment to three convicts for the murder of Nitish Katara and called the case an instance of “honour killing”.
A division bench comprising justices Gita Mittal and J R Midha dismissed the convicts’ appeals against a May 2008 trial court verdict awarding them life imprisonment for abducting and killing Nitish Katara in 2002. The bench posted for April 25 the appeal of Katara’s mother, Neelam Katara, who sought death sentences for the three convicts – Vikas Yadav, Vishal Yadav and contract killer Sukhdev Pehalwan – who are serving their terms in the Tihar Central Jail.
According to the prosecution, Vikas and Vishal killed Katara on the night of February 17, 2002, after abducting him from a marriage function in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad as they were opposed to his friendship with their sister Bharti Yadav. In the 1,193-page verdict, the high court bench held that Nitish Katara’s murder was an “honour killing” and that this case brings to the fore a “malaise” which afflicts Indian society.
“What is of special concern is that such divisive forces exist even on the borders of Delhi – the nation’s capital, which is also a cosmopolitan city,” the court observed.
“The case of the prosecution squarely brings the murder of Nitish Katara within the meaning of the expression of honour killing,” it said.
“It is in evidence that Bharti’s family was opposed to her association or any kind of alliance with Nitish Katara on the ground that he was not from the same caste and that he belonged to a service class family. While she was a Yadav, Nitish was a Katara.
Bharti came from a well-placed business class family with her father also being a member of Parliament. Nitish Katara’s father was in government service and they lived in official accommodation. Nitish Katara was certainly not in the same income bracket of Bharti’s family,” the court observed.
The court also pulled up the Yadav brothers for attempting to delay the case and for mocking every direction passed by the court during trial. It said that because of their “influence”, it took their sister Bharti Yadav three and a half years to enter the witness box.
The bench also said that the Yadavs made every possible effort to avoid Bharti’s appearance, a material witness before the trial court, which resulted in substantial delay in trial, as well as “pressurised her into withholding material evidence and giving testimony which was prevaricatory and false”.