Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Katara Case : Verdict likely today

NEW DELHI: The trial court hearing the six-year-old Nitish Katara case is likely to pronounce its verdict on Wednesday, even though prime accused Vikas Yadav might be hoping that Delhi High Court will restrain the lower court from going ahead with the verdict. ( Watch ) Tuesday saw swift developments in the case, which has been marked by a flurry of applications being moved by defence lawyers representing Vikas, son of UP politician D P Yadav, and his cousin Vishal Yadav. Applications were filed at every stage of the hearing, even after court had wrapped up the trial. As additional sessions judge Ravinder Kaur dismissed Vikas' plea to recall key witness Ajay Katara for examination and informed both parties Kaur will give the verdict on Wednesday, his lawyers rushed to HC in appeal and sought a stay on pronouncement until Ajay is re-examined. However, HC will hear the application on Wednesday itself. Vikas' decision to move HC at this stage and press for Ajay Katara's summoning comes in the wake of a CD which surfaced last week, featuring an alleged sting operation conducted on Ajay, who was, according to the prosecution, a witness to "last seen evidence." Ajay had testified during the trial that, on the intervening night of February 16-17, 2002, when Nitish was murdered, he saw him with Vikas and Vishal in a Tata Safari in Ghaziabad. The prosecution says this makes the chain of circumstantial evidence — on which the case is based — complete. The defence, on the other hand, has attacked Ajay as a witness planted by police and tried its best to discredit him. This only goes to highlight the importance of his evidence in court, which will have a bearing on the verdict on Wednesday. Kaur dismissed Vikas' plea on Tuesday and said she found "no justifiable reason to allow the present application, particularly when an application by the accused under Section 311 (court's power to summon witness) of the CrPC to the similar effect has already been disposed of on May 24." The court took serious note of the fresh application and added, "It is the duty of the court to see that neither the prosecution nor the defence is allowed to misuse the process of the court. Since the trial is already over and the judgment is to be pronounced, this is no stage to summon the witnesses, particularly (in view of the) disposal of an earlier similar application." Apart from Ajay, the other testimony which will decide the fate of the case is that of Vikas' sister Bharti Yadav, a central figure in the entire case and "an important witness" according to Delhi HC, which reversed the prosecution's decision to drop her as its witness in the course of the trial. Bharti's proximity to Nitish was disliked by her brothers who therefore murdered him, claimed the prosecution, while imputing motive to the crime. After repeated summons failed and court threatened to declare her a PO, Bharti — who left for UK within days of the murder— returned to India in 2006. It will be interesting to see how the trial court deals with her testimony. Although she admitted to being close to Nitish, she has given a clean chit to her brothers. While she stood by all documentary evidence tabled by the prosecution, for example, the Valentine's Day album, greeting cards, snaps and letters to Nitish, Bharti maintained her family were unaware of her friendship with Nitish. There was, therefore, no question of them disliking him and she had no plans to tie the knot with Nitish. Vikas, who has been convicted for his role in the Jessica Lal murder and is undergoing a prison sentence has been in jail since his arrest in this case and his several bail pleas have been rejected even by Supreme Court. Vishal has been on bail since 2005.

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