The sad and tired face of Soumya’s father, MK Vishwanathan, said it all. We might say his daughter got justice after 15 years of her murder, but that is not all. The parents who lost their daughter legally battled to know what had exactly happened and why their daughter had to lose her life. For them, there is no happiness even today because they will never get their daughter back. Soumya Vishwanathan’s murder was a big challenge to the investigators, as they had literally struggled to crack this murder case for months.
In 2008, on September 30, Soumya Vishwanathan, a 25-year-old journalist working with India Today, was found dead in her car on Nelson Mandela Marg in South Delhi. The police primarily struggled to identify her killers, but finally, in 2009, they got some breakthrough. The First Information Report (FIR) registered in this case the same day books unknown people for murder (Section 302 of the IPC).
Those days, police were investigating the murder of BPO employee Jigisha Ghosh. On March 21, 2009, the body of Jigisha was recovered from Faridabad. Police arrested three in connection with this case — Kapoor, Shukla, and Malik. Reports at the time had also suggested that Kapoor first shot at Vishwanathan to stop her car in a bid to attempt robbery but when she didn’t stop, he allegedly shot her gravely. During interrogation, one of the accused, Malik, alias Poppy, confessed to also being involved in Vishwanathan’s murder. Malik, who was arrested along with Kapoor and Shukla in connection with Ghosh’s killing, allegedly admitted to his involvement in Soumya Vishwanathan’s murder. Vishwanathan was shot in the head as she was driving back home from work in the early hours of September 30, 2008. According to court records, the local police station in Vasant Kunj received a phone call about the killing at 3.45 am.
Ravi Kapoor was a police informant and a car thief known to have several criminal backgrounds. He was arrested in his first auto theft case in 2002, and several newspapers reported about the same. Later, police claimed to have recovered the pistol that was used to kill Vishwanathan from Kapoor’s home. In October 2009, Kapoor threw chili powder at police personnel in a bid to escape when he was brought to Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital for treatment. And in May 2010, he reportedly flashed a knife before a magistrate at the Patiala House Court during one of his hearings and claimed that he was ‘given the weapon by policemen to attack undertrials’ in Tihar jail, where he was lodged. In 2018, the Delhi High Court granted him bail but it was stayed by the Supreme Court.
Another accused, Amit Shukla, was one of Kapoor’s crime partners in the case and allegedly helped him take the fatal shot at Vishwanathan. According to reports, Shukla fled from Delhi two days after Vishwanathan’s murder and returned to Delhi a week before Ghosh was killed. Third accused Baljeet Malik, alias Poppy, is believed to be the person whose confession gave police a breakthrough in the investigation. In 2019, after Malik submitted an application to the Delhi High Court to ask for the trial to be expedited, the latter asked the lower court why the case was being delayed. In its response, the trial court reportedly cited the absence of prosecution witnesses and the lack of a special public prosecutor.
Fourth accused Ajay Kumar was still on the run, he was eventually arrested in 2009. In 2010, during one of his court hearings at the Patiala House Court Complex, Kumar reportedly attacked another accused in the case, Ajay Sethi, with a blade. Sethi, who allegedly dealt in stolen vehicles, later claimed he was unaware that a stolen vehicle that Kapoor was trying to sell him was used in the murder of Vishwanathan. He had also been arrested four times before he was arrested for Vishwananathan’s murder.
In October 2009, Delhi Police invoked the MCOCA against the five accused, saying that they were working as part of an “organized gang”—an essential element to invoke the stringent law. In its charge sheet, police listed Ravi Kapoor as the leader of the gang. Police also believed invoking the stringent law would help the investigation since the accused were not supposed to get bail for at least six months. For this, police also needed to trace previous FIRs against the accused.
In 2014, public prosecutor Rajeev Mohan, who had been handling the case since the start of the trial, reportedly quit to pursue private practice—a development that came as a major setback in the case. Then, in November 2015, then-Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung reappointed Mohan as the public prosecutor in the case. In 2016, Soumya Vishwanathan’s father, M.K. Vishwanathan, approached Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal about the delay in the trial.
Fifteen years after the murder of journalist Soumya Vishwanathan, Delhi’s Saket Court pronounced the accused guilty in the case on Wednesday. The court convicted four accused in the murder case. The fifth accused has been convicted for other offences in the case. All five accused have also been convicted under Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA). The court will announce the quantum of sentence next week.