Sharma, a 1976-batch IPS officer, has been found guilty of conspiring with three others -- Pradeep Sharma, Sri Bhagwan and Satya Prakash -- to conspire to kill Indian Express journalist Bhatnagar on January 23, 1999. Additional Sessions Judge Rajender Kumar Shastri had on March 18 pronounced them guilty under Section 302 (murder) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code. These penal provisions call for either life imprisonment or death penalty. The court which heard the arguments on quantum of sentence for the convicts on March 20 had reserved its order for Monday. Even as special public prosecutor S K Saxena demanded death penalty for R K Sharma and Pradeep - guilty of killing the scribe - it sought life imprisonment for Sri Bhagwan and Satya Prakash, who it said were intermediaries to the commission of the crime.
Countering the prosecution's demand for capital punishment for the suspended policeman, R K Sharma's counsel S P Minocha contended before the court that the murder did not fall in the 'rarest of rare' category. The counsel said that the reason of the victim being a media personality and the guilty a senior IPS officer did not justify death penalty for the convict.