| Ravi Kant Sharma
New Delhi, Oct. 27: Delhi police have cited telephone calls as key evidence in its chargesheet to nail the accused, including prime suspect senior police officer Ravi Kant Sharma, for the murder of journalist Shivani Bhatnagar.
The over 1,000-page chargesheet lists a series of telephone numbers the Haryana-cadre Indian Police Service officer used to get in touch with his alleged henchmen and Shivani.
It starts with the charge that the conspiracy to murder Shivani was hatched around December 1998.
According to the chargesheet, the conspiracy and telephone link starts with the first call made by Sri Bhagwan from the number 332266 to R.K. Sharma’s mobile 9811008825 in Mumbai, where he was posted as chief vigilance officer in Indian Airlines.
While reconstructing the murder story, the Delhi police’s crime branch recorded the telephone numbers of R.K. Sharma in Panchkula (Punjab), Mumbai, Delhi and Pune, and also those of Sri Bhagwan, Satya Prakash, Pradeep Sharma, Ved Prakash Sharma and Ved Sharma alias Kalu. All of them are now in judicial custody.
Even the telephone calls made by Sharma’s daughter Pragati and Shivani’s husband Rakesh Bhatnagar found mention in the chargesheet to specify what conversation happened, when and where.
There is, however, confusion over the number of people who actually committed the murder. Crime branch officials insist that there was only one killer, Pradeep.
However, in his first confession, Pradeep had claimed that there was another person who had accompanied him to execute Shivani’s murder, his lawyer D.B. Goswami said.
Highlighting loopholes in the chargesheet, Goswami said the police had taken three confessional statements from Pradeep — one on August 3, the other on the following day and the last on August 17.
In the first disclosure report, Pradeep had said that he went to Shivani’s house along with a person by the name of “Jawan”, who, according to him, is a friend of Satya Prakash. Satya waited in the car.
Goswami said two kitchen knives were recovered from the spot. One with a dent and the other blood-soaked. Apart from that, yellow electric wires were also recovered.
According to him, this establishes the fact that two persons participated in killing the journalist.
While one used the wire to strangulate Shivani, the other went to fetch the kitchen knives to stab her.
The other factor that raises doubts about the police conclusions is the motive for the murder. After filing the chargesheet on Friday, special public prosecutor S.K. Saxena had said there were two motives.
One, Shivani was threatening to ruin Sharma’s life. Second, she was refusing to return some classified documents that Sharma had passed on while he was posted in Prime Minister I.K. Gujral’s office.
Legal experts wonder why the police did not book Sharma under the Official Secrets Act if he had indeed leaked sensitive documents.
Given that no punitive action was taken against Sharma, they also questioned how the police would now establish the documents leak in court.
According to the chargesheet, Sharma had given Shivani papers on “discreet information into the controversies surrounding the alleged bank accounts of Ajay Singh in the St Kitts scandal”.
The other documents leaked pertain to two papers on Jammu and Kashmir and “Rising Dalit Consciousness and Caste Violence — Remedial Measures”.
The chargesheet says that these papers were handed over to the police on January 25, 1999, two days after Shivani was found murdered in her east Delhi flat. There are 233 witnesses in this case.