By Sharat Pradhan, IANS,
Lucknow : Bhagwati Singh may have been sentenced to life for murdering badminton champion Syed Modi 21 years ago, but the million dollar question remains unanswered - why was the ace sportsman killed and who got Bhagwati to pump four bullets into his chest on the night of July 28, 1988?
The sensational murder continued to hit the headlines for months because it had all the ingredients of a Bollywood masala movie - love, passion, money and crime surrounding the death of a sporting hero.
The role of Modi's wife Amita Kulkarni, then herself a name in Indian badminton, her alleged affair with then Uttar Pradesh sports minister Sanjay Singh and his close nexus with Rae Bareli outlaw-turned-politician Akhilesh Singh, as also some revealing infamous letters written by Amita's mother to her, added more spice to the story each day.
Their connections with Subrata Roy, head of then up and coming Sahara Chit Funds, also aroused a lot of media interest.
CBI charge-sheets against Sanjay Singh, Amita and Akhilesh for "masterminding" and "conspiring" the murder were knocked off in the prolonged court battle that was fought right up to the apex court by renowned lawyer Ram Jethmalani and his daughter Rani.
The only ordeal that Amita and Sanjay had to go through was a brief stint behind bars but eventually they got a clean chit from the High Court as well as the Supreme Court. Both were now happily married and into politics- Sanjay was Congress MP from Sultanpur and Amita the party legislator from Amethi.
Sanjay and Amita's reprieve came in handy for Akhilesh to get relief on the plea that his co-accused were acquitted, leaving the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) high and dry.
Of the two other accused, both Balai Singh and Amar Bahadur Singh were shot dead in mysterious circumstances shortly after being released on bail. Both belonged to Rae Bareli, the hometown of Akhilesh Singh.
Yet another accused Jitendra Singh got the "benefit of doubt" to be set free. He was accused of driving the vehicle from which the shooters - Bhagwati and Amar Bahadur - had fired the shots, while Modi was coming out of the local badminton stadium on the fateful night 21 years ago.
"The affluent and the influential literally got away with murder and poor Bhagwati Singh has been nailed," lamented the convict's relative accompanying him Saturday when Lucknow Additional District and Sessions judge Sheshank Shekhar ordered Bhagwati to be sentenced to a life term together with a fine of Rs.50,000.
The judge turned down CBI's argument for a death sentence to Bhagwati, who pleaded for a "milder" treatment on the plea that he was the sole bread-winner of the family and had two young daughters to marry off.
Even the court failed to establish Bhagwati's motive behind the murder. Sure enough, he proposes to move the High Court against the trial court's verdict and is quite hopeful of "getting justice".
But how many decades would the new court battle take to answer the question, which would unravel 'who' was behind the Indian badminton star's murder, could be anybody's guess.