The Delhi High Court on Wednesday acquitted former Haryana cadre IPS officer Ravi Kant Sharma and two others who were accused in the Shivani Bhatnagar murder case, giving them the benefit of doubt.

R K Sharma and three others were the accused in the murder of journalist Shivani Bhatnagar in 1999.

"Accused R K Sharma, Sri Bhagwan Sharma and Satya Prakash get the benefit of doubt," said the bench of justices BD Ahmed and Manmohan Singh. However, the court upheld the conviction and life sentence of fourth accused Pradeep Sharma who had killed Shivani.

R K Sharma, the former IG (Prison), was sentenced to life prison on March 24, 2008 after co- accused and a Gurgaon-based restaurant owner, Sri Bhagwan, said that RK Sharma had hatched the plan to kill Shivani.

After various unsuccessful attempts to get bail, Sharma surrendered in a court in Ambala In Sept. 27, 2002. He has been lodged in Delhi's Tihar Jail for the last nine years.

Journalist Shivani Bhatnager was killed in her 'Navkunj Apartment' flat at IP Extension in East Delhi on Jan. 23, 1999. It's believed that R K Sharma had provided certain classified documents to Shivani who was the principal correspondent with the Indian Express.

According to media reports, Shivani and Sharma had an intimate relationship and, as the relation got worsened, Shivani threatened to ruin his career by exposing classified documents pertained to the St Kitts case which he had given her while he had been posted as officer on special duty at the Prime Minister's Office during 1997-98, and it led to her murder.