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The Delhi High Court Monday upheld the life sentence awarded to two men for murdering United Nations Development Programme employee Pushkin Chandra and his friend Kuldeep in south Delhi in 2004.

Earlier in March a Delhi court awarded rigorous life imprisonment to two persons for stabbing to death two homosexuals, belonging to affluent families, nearly six years ago here, terming the act as “ghastly and brutal”.

“Considering the facts and circumstances of the case, the background of the convicts, social and economic liabilities which they have to shoulder, I am of the view that despite the murder being brutal, the case does not fall in the category of rarest of rare cases,” the court did not award death penalty, said.

Additional Sessions Judge A K Kuhar also imposed a fine of Rs 3,000 each on convicts, Rajesh Rekwar, an AIDS patient, and Moti after holding them guilty under section 302 (murder) and 380 (theft) of the IPC.

Pushkin Chandra, 38, who was son of a retired IAS officer and his friend Kuldeep were killed on the intervening night of August 13-14, 2004, at Chandra’s residence at Anand Lok area in South Delhi.

Earlier, the defence counsel sought lenient punishment for the convicts saying the photographs, showing Pushkin in compromising positions with men, spoke about the life style of the victims and the circumstances in which the offence was allegedly committed.

“Without going further on this aspect, I put a question whether the convicts had any justification in killing two human beings in such a brutal fashion? The answer would be – no,” the court said.

The court, however, acquitted two other co-accused, Munna and Jay Kishore for want of evidence. They were charged with destruction of evidence and keeping the stolen properties of the victims.

Earlier, public prosecutor Davendra Kumar sought death penalty for the convicts saying “There were multiple stab injuries (11 wounds on Pushkin’s body) on the bodies of the victims. This itself reflects the brutality with which the murders were committed.”

The defence counsel opposed the plea saying the convict Rajesh and his wife, who were having three minor children, were suffering from AIDS.

It was also argued that both the convicts belonged to poor families and their dependants would starve to death if they were awarded the extreme penalty.

In a case hinged on circumstantial evidence as nobody witnessed the incident, the court, in its 49-page judgement, relied on the testimonies of two prosecution witnesses who had last seen the victims in the company of the accused.

The CCTV footage of a camera at an ATM centre here, showing one of the accused withdrawing money by using Pushkin’s ATM card after the incident linked them with the offence, the court said.

The arrest of accused from places in Uttar Pradesh and recovery of stolen goods from their possession also helped the prosecution in nailing them.

The defence’s plea was that Pushkin was killed allegedly by the accused who got provoked as the victim used to blackmail them after photographing them naked.

“….Despite these activities of Pushkin Chandra being apparent on record, no material could be gathered to show that he used to blackmail the poor boys with whom he used to indulge in sexually pervert act.

“Therefore, to say that the accused were being blackmailed by Pushkin and that is why they planned to eliminate him under provocation would be saying something off the record which has no evidential value in the eyes of law. Moreover, nobody gets a right to eliminate a human being for whatever injustice has been caused to him,” the court said.

The victim, Chandra, working with UNDP, used to photograph nude men with whom he happened to have unnatural sex, the prosecution said.

The accused duo after stabbing to death Pushkin and his friend decamped with various goods including a DVD player and a wrist watch in Chandra’s car.

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