NEW DELHI: A Delhi court has postponed the hearing regarding the sentencing of the five men found guilty of the 2008 murder of TV journalist Soumya Vishwanathan to November 7.

The delay is due to the pending submission of the pre-sentence report and other essential documents.

Delhi court convicts five in journalist Soumya Vishwanathan’s murder case

On October 18, additional sessions judge (ASJ) Ravindra Kumar Pandey rendered guilty verdicts for Ravi Kapoor, Amit Shukla, Baljeet Malik, and Ajay Kumar under IPC section 302 (murder) and the provisions of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA).

The judge had scheduled the proceedings for sentencing arguments to take place on Thursday.
Acknowledging the necessity to submit specific documents, such as the probationary officer’s pre-sentence report, as required by law in cases where the maximum sentence could be the death penalty, the court adjourned the hearing to November 7.

Soumya Vishwanathan, an employee of a prominent English news channel, was fatally shot in the early hours of September 30, 2008, on Nelson Mandela Marg in south Delhi while she was on her way home from work.
The police asserted that the motive behind the incident was robbery.
ASJ Pandey stated, “The matter will be listed for the examination of the probation officer’s report, review of the affidavits submitted by the convicts, the affidavit on behalf of the state, and the report from Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLA) for further discussion on the sentencing on November 7 at 2 pm.”
He mentioned that while the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLA) had submitted the victim impact report, the convicts had yet to file their affidavits.
The legal representatives for the convicts collectively conveyed their inability to draft the affidavits, citing a lack of essential information.
They proposed that the court could direct the jail superintendent and utilize the legal aid counsel within the prison authorities to aid the convicts in the preparation of the required affidavits.
The court emphasized that in accordance with the Delhi high court guidelines, in cases where a conviction includes an offense carrying the possibility of the death penalty as one of the potential sentences, it is mandatory to acquire a pre-sentence report from the probation officer prior to commencing the sentencing hearing.
As a result, the court instructed the principal secretary of the home department in the Delhi government to designate a probation officer to complete and submit the pre-sentencing report.
The court clarified that the pre-sentencing report must explicitly address two critical elements: first, it should assess whether the convicts could pose a continuing threat to society by potentially committing additional crimes, and second, it should evaluate the likelihood of the convicts undergoing reformation and rehabilitation.
When outlining the inquiry process to be conducted by the probation officer, the court emphasized that, in consideration of the fundamental right against self-incrimination, the convicts must be made aware of their rights to remain silent.
It was also emphasized that under no circumstances should any negative inference be drawn if the convicts choose not to provide an interview to the probation officer.
The court instructed that the probation officer should deliver the report within one week from the current date.
Furthermore, the court directed the principal secretary of the home department to promptly designate a probation officer upon receiving the court’s order, taking into account the extensive duration of the case, which spans over 15 years.
The court additionally requested the secretary of the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DLSA) to assign a legal aid counsel.
This counsel is to visit the prison within 24 hours of receiving the court’s order to assist in the preparation of the convicts’ affidavits.
With agency inputs

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