Fifteen years after the murder of 25-year-old journalist Soumya Vishwanathan, a Delhi court convicted four men of murder and offences under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA). On November 25, these men were sentenced to life imprisonment, while a fifth convict received a three-year jail term. The court, led by Additional Sessions Judge Ravindra Kumar Pandey, declined the request for the death penalty, stating that the crime did not qualify as “rarest of rare.”
Soumya Vishwanathan, a TV journalist with India Today, was fatally shot in the early hours of September 30, 2008, while driving home in South Delhi’s Nelson Mandela Marg. The incident was initially shrouded in mystery due to a lack of CCTV footage and eyewitness accounts. However, a breakthrough occurred in March 2009 when police arrested Ravi Kapoor, Amit Shukla, and Baljeet Malik for the murder of IT executive Jigisha Ghosh. During interrogation, the men confessed to Vishwanathan’s murder, along with other crimes.
Investigators established a connection between the bullet found in Soumya’s car and the weapon recovered from the arrested men. They also seized the WagonR used during the murder. The men were identified as serial offenders, often targeting vulnerable individuals like taxi drivers or women.
In 2011, the police filed charges under MCOCA, a stringent act that prevented the accused from obtaining bail to influence witnesses. The prosecution faced the challenge of proving the men were part of an organized crime gang.
On October 18, the court found Ravi Kapoor, Amit Shukla, Baljeet Malik, and Ajay Kumar guilty of murder and committing organized crime under MCOCA. Ajay Sethi was convicted for receiving stolen property and conspiring in organized crime. The court also imposed a fine of ₹1.25 lakh on each of the four main convicts and ₹7.25 lakh on Sethi, who had already served over 14 years in prison. Additionally, ₹12 lakh from the total fine amount will be paid to the victim’s family.
Soumya’s mother, Madhavi Vishwanathan, expressed a mix of satisfaction and enduring pain at the court’s ruling. She highlighted the long-term impact of the crime on her family, saying, “In a way, we are also enduring life imprisonment.”