The Tis Hazari court in Delhi has adjourned the sentencing hearing for the three convicted killers of photographer Ankit Saxena, who was brutally murdered in February 2018 due to his interfaith relationship. The accused, identified as Shehzadi’s parents, Akbar Ali and Shahnaj Begum, and maternal uncle Mohammad Salim, were found guilty by Additional Sessions Judge Sunil Kumar Sharma on December 23, 2023. The court granted a 15-day period for both parties to file their affidavits, and the next hearing is scheduled for January 31, 2024.
The court, in its verdict, established that 23-year-old Ankit Saxena’s murder was driven by his relationship with Shehzadi, a girl from the Muslim community, vehemently opposed by her family. The court granted time for the accused and the prosecution to present their arguments on sentencing.
During the recent hearing, the convicted killers raised concerns about media coverage in the case, urging a blanket ban on reporting. The court had earlier directed both sides to file their affidavits by January 6, 2024.
However, Mohammad Salim’s lawyer submitted an affidavit that lacked certification from the Jail Superintendent.
Similarly, Akbar Ali’s lawyer requested additional time to include details in the affidavit and expressed objections to ongoing media coverage, asserting potential harm to the culprits’ rights.
The defence argued that constant media reporting could compromise the rights of the accused, urging the court to issue guidelines for a media ban. The Special Public Prosecutor contested this, emphasising that the case had concluded, and the decision was reserved. The prosecutor stated that the court’s decision is a public document and should be reported by the media, advising the defence to file a separate application for any media-related concerns.
Representing the Delhi Police in court were Special Public Prosecutors Vishal Gosain and Rebecca Mammen John.
In a recent visit to Ankit Saxena’s residence in Raghubir Nagar, an Aaj Tak reporter found a sombre setting. An image of a smiling Ankit adorned the entrance, along with a photograph of his deceased father. The report highlighted the complicated nature of the case, with the family installing CCTV for security.
Ankit’s mother, unaware of her son’s relationship with Shehzadi, revealed that Shehzadi had spoken in court on behalf of her family. However, eyewitnesses contradicted her statements, revealing the truth. Ankit Saxena’s brutal murder in February 2018 exposed the deep-seated opposition to his interfaith relationship with Shehzadi. The girl’s family, vehemently against the relationship, orchestrated a pre-planned murder, staging a road rage incident to carry out the gruesome act.
Eyewitnesses described the horrifying sequence of events, where Shehzadi’s mother initiated the attack by ramming her scooter into Ankit’s vehicle. The subsequent assault, verbal abuse, and beating culminated in Ankit’s tragic death. Media reports initially downplayed the religious aspect of the crime, sparking controversy.
Ankit Saxena’s father, Yashpal Saxena, emerged as a symbol of communal harmony, urging against communalising his son’s murder. Despite the gruesome details revealed during the trial, the media reports on the incident failed to generate widespread outrage as they carefully omitted the religion of the accused.
As the sentencing hearing approaches, the court faces challenges in balancing the rights of the accused with the public’s right to information and awareness. The case continues to shed light on the complexities of interfaith relationships in society.