Soumya Vishwanathan murder case: Delhi court to hear arguments on sentencing on Nov 24

A Delhi court is likely to hear on November 24 arguments on quantum of punishment to be awarded to the men convicted for killing TV journalist Soumya Vishwanathan in 2008.

Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) Ravindra Kumar Pandey, who was scheduled to hear the submissions in regard to the sentence on Tuesday, adjourned the matter noting that the verification of the affidavits filed by the convicts was not complete.

The judge, however, took on record the pre-sentence report filed by the probationary officer.

On October 18, the judge had convicted Ravi Kapoor, Amit Shukla, Baljeet Malik, and Ajay Kumar under IPC section 302 (murder) and provisions of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA).

Taking note of the fact that certain documents, including the pre-sentence report of the probationary officer, had to be filed mandatorily if the maximum sentence in the case is death penalty, the court had adjourned the matter for Tuesday.

Vishwanathan, who was working with a leading English news channel, was shot dead in the early hours of September 30, 2008, on south Delhi’s Nelson Mandela Marg while she was returning home from work. Police claimed the motive was robbery.

The judge had said that though the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLA) had filed the victim impact report, the convicts had not filed their affidavits.

Counsels for the convicts had jointly submitted that they were unable to prepare the affidavits as they did not have the details and necessary direction could be issued to the jail superintendent and legal aid counsel, available with prison authorities, to assist the convicts in preparation of the affidavits.

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The court said according to the guidelines of the Delhi High Court, in a case where there is a conviction for an offence punishable with the death penalty (as one of the alternate punishments), a pre-sentence report had to be obtained from the probation officer before the hearing on the quantum of sentence.

While detailing the inquiry procedure to be followed by the probation officer, the court said in the light of the fundamental right against self-incrimination, the convicts must be informed of their rights to be silent and in no circumstance can any adverse inference be drawn if the convicts refuse to give an interview to the probation officer.

The court also asked the secretary of DLSA to depute one legal aid counsel, who would visit the prison for the preparation of affidavits of the convicts within 24 hours of the receipt of the order.

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