Nitish Katara killers won’t hang, reasserts SC: A look at 10 facts you may have forgotten

The Supreme Court on Monday (November 16) rejected the Delhi government’s plea seeking death penalty for Vikas and Vishal Yadav, convicted for the Nitish Katara’s murder. However, the court has asked the government to help decide if their life term should be for 30 years or till death.

“What they (Yadavs) did cannot be condoned, but it (the offence) is not so heinous and abhorring that warrants death,” a bench of justices JS Khehar and R Banumathi said.

Last month, the SC had rejected a similar plea by Nitish’s mother, Neelam Katara, who wanted the murder to be considered a “rarest of rare” crime.

On 17 February 2002, Nitish Katara, a 25-year-old Delhi-based business executive, was murdered. The young management graduate was allegedly in love with his classmate Bharti Yadav. The prime accused in the murder: Bharti’s brother’s Vikas and her cousin Vishal.

On the night of the murder, Bharti and Nitish were said to have attended a wedding together, where Vikas and Vishal were also present. They took Katara for a drive from which he never returned. Three days later, his battered body was found on the highway; he had been bludgeoned with a hammer, and set aflame with diesel.

Nitish Katara (left) at a wedding with Bharti Yadav (right)
Nitish Katara (left) at a wedding with Bharti Yadav (right)

Here are some facts of the case:

1. Vikas and Bharti Yadav are the children of politician D.P Yadav, who allegedly has several cases filed against him.

2. Confessing to the police, Vikas had said “the affair was damaging our family’s reputation”.

3. In May 2006, news channel NDTV broadcast the confession tape. In it, Yadav is heard saying he took Katara from the party, murdered him, and burnt his body.

4. The most drama during the trial involved Bharti Yadav’s testimony. A PTI report says that she had initially told a policewoman that she and Nitish were close. She seemed to retract later when she said that they were just classmates. She then moved to London and was ‘untraceable’ for years. It was only after much legal wrangling, that she returned to give her testimony in 2006, after her passport was cancelled and the court declared her an absconder, a charge for which she could have been arrested.

5. Initially, four people at the wedding said they had seen Nitish get in the car with Vikas; three withdrew their testimony immediately. Only one witness, Rohit Gaur, brother of the bride, was left. However, on 26 September 2006, he retracted his statement as well. According to a report in The Hindu, a constable, Inderjeet, who also testified to seeing the Yadavs with Nitish had withdrawn his statement.

6. One witness Ajay Kumar filed a complaint that “he was under pressure to withdraw from the case” and that “his life was in danger” and he was assigned protection officers. In July 2007, two brothers, Manoj and Anuj Sharma, invited him to the Mohan Nagar temple on the grounds that he could reconcile with his estranged wife. The Sharmas bought him chaat to eat while waiting for his wife (who never showed up). Ajay suddenly took very ill and had to be rushed to hospital, where he was treated for food poisoning. A case was registered against D. P. Yadav and four others on suspicion of having poisoned Ajay Kumar.

7. On 30 May 2008, a fast track court in New Delhi sentenced the Yadavs to life sentences for kidnapping and murder and each was fined a paltry Rs.1,60,000 each.

8. In November 2009, Vikas Yadav was granted bail to attend Bharti’s arranged marriage to a local businessman. He was granted bail 66 times in his first two years of incarceration, often with no clear reason stated. Nitish’s mother Neelam Katara requested a formal investigation accusing the authorities of colluding with the Yadavs.

9. The Delhi High Court accused Yadav of involvement in multiple criminal activities while on bail, including involvement in the headline grabbing murder of model Jessica Lall.

10. In April 2014, Delhi’s High Court upheld the trial court’s verdict of life imprisonment for Vikas, Vishal and contract killer Sukhdev Pehalwan. The hearing for the appeal by Neelam Katara seeking the death sentence began in April 2014.