September 30, 2008 was just another day for 25-year-old journalist Soumya Vishwanathan. She was a news producer at Headlines Today and had stayed home late to help with a major news event. After completing her work, she left the office in Jhandewalan at 3.03 am, got into her car and drove home to Vasant Kunj. Little did she know that this ride would be her last, that a late-night robbery would brutally end her life.
A Delhi court yesterday convicted five men in the 15-year-old murder case. Four suspects – Ravi Kapoor, Amit Shukla, Baljit Malik and Akshay Kumar – were held guilty of murder and plunder. The fifth, Ajay Sethi, was held guilty of helping the others.
On the way back, Soumya overtook a car carrying Kapoor, Shukla, Kumar and Malik, police officers investigating the case told news agency PTI.
According to the police, the four convicts noticed that the female driver who overtook them was alone. They sped up and began to follow. First they tried to intercept Soumya’s car. She didn’t stop. Kapoor then shot her with a country-made gun. The bullet hit her on the head, killing her instantly. The car crashed into a divider on Nelson Mandela Marg, close to her home, and came to a stop.
The killers fled the scene, an officer said, but returned 20 minutes later to check on the victim’s condition. When they saw police personnel, they ran away.
Around 3:45 a.m., a staff member at a nearby restaurant cycling home noticed a woman sitting in the car with the headlights and engine on. He stopped a few vehicles and then called the police. Soumya was rushed to AIIMS where she was declared brought dead. During their investigation, the police found that Soumya had called her father around 3.15 am and told him that she was on her way. Within half an hour she was dead.
Police later found her phone and wallet in the car.
The investigation in the case was conducted by the Delhi South District Police, then headed by HGS Dhaliwal, now Special Commissioner of the Special Cell of Delhi Police. Speaking to the media after the verdict yesterday, the senior officer said it was a challenging case as there was no physical contact between the victim and the killers. “Only a bullet was fired from a moving vehicle which hit Soumya and killed her,” he said. The officer said the family had also faced a CBI probe but they decided to stay with the Delhi Police. He said he is happy that Delhi Police is living up to the faith.
Police made a breakthrough in the Soumya Vishwanathan murder case while investigating the murder of another woman, Jigisha Ghosh, in 2009. Ghosh was looted and murdered on March 18, 2009. Ravi Kapoor was arrested in this connection. And during interrogation he said they killed another woman.
Yesterday’s ruling brings some closure to Soumya’s loved ones.
India Today News director Rahul Kanwal, Soumya’s colleague at the time, was present at the court for the verdict. “Soumya Vishwanathan was the brightest young producer I had the pleasure of working with. On the night she was murdered, Soumya had stayed behind after finishing the afternoon shift to help the night team prepare for the morning show. A major terror had occurred . attack and the newsroom was stretched out to report the latest news. Soumya was the standard bearer of dedication and hard work in our newsroom,” he posted on X.
“Her gruesome murder on the way back home has haunted me for fifteen years. I was filled with emotion and relief when I heard Judge Pandey find all the accused guilty in a packed courtroom in Saket this afternoon. Nothing will bring Soumya back except at least the killers. ” will pay for their crime,” he added.
After the verdict, Soumya’s parents Madhavi Vishwanathan and MP Vishwanathan fought back tears. Ms. Vishwanathan told the media, “We have lost our daughter but this will be a deterrent for others otherwise they (the convicts) would have been emboldened. At least one gang would have fallen out. That’s all.” She said she wants life imprisonment for those convicted.