THE Supreme Court has upheld the conviction and life sentence awarded to Manu Sharma, son of former Union minister Venod Sharma, in the sensational Jessica Lal murder case.
“The evidence regarding the actual incident, the testimonies of witnesses, the evidence connecting the vehicles and cartridges to the accused, Manu Sharma, as well as his conduct after the incident prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt,”.
The bench said, “we hold that the prosecution has established its case beyond doubt against the appellants (Manu Sharma and two others) and we are in agreement with the conclusion arrived at by the high court. Consequently, all the appeals are devoid of any merit and are accordingly dismissed.”
Sharma who was given a life term, Vikas Yadav, son of influential western UP politician D P Yadav and Amarjeet Singh Gill, an MNC executive, both awarded four-year jail terms for destroying evidence in the case, had filed separate appeals in the apex court challenging the high court verdict. “We are satisfied that the high court, on appreciation of the relevant materials, found against them and convicted accordingly. On analysis of all materials, we agree with their conviction and sentence,” said Justice Sathaswivam writing the verdict.
The high court on December 20, 2006, had convicted Sharma for killing Jessica Lal, overturning trial court verdict. Jessica Lal was killed on the intervening night of April 29-30, 1999.
The lower court on February 21, 2006, had acquitted all the nine accused including appellant Manu Sharma. The trial in the case had began in May, 2001, against nine accused. In all, 101 witnesses were examined by the prosecution and two court witnesses were also examined. In its 230 page elaborate judgment, the apex court cited numerous reasons while holding them guilty of the offence. “From the evidence on record it has been proved by the prosecution that appellant/accused Manu Sharma, along with co-accused Amardeep Singh Gill, Alok Khanna and Vikas Yadav were present in the said party at Tamarind Cafi on the night of occurrence.”
“The presence of Tata Safari CH-01-W-6535 at the place of occurrence and its being forcibly taken at around 3.45 am after the incident has also been proved beyond reasonable doubt,” the court pointed out adding, a reasonable inference has to be drawn from the evidence that accused Sharma used such vehicle for coming to Qutub Colonnade on the fateful night of incident. “It has been proved beyond reasonable doubt that accused Manu Sharma absconded after the incident, which is a very relevant conduct u/s 8 of Evidence Act”, court observed. The bench turned down the plea of Sharma’s counsel Ram Jethmalani that the firing which resulted in murder of model Jessica Lal was not over a drink and the act to refuse supply of liquor by her to the accused was not the motive to murder. After perusing the evidence of witness, it is clear that after refusal of the drink, the appellant-Manu Sharma misbehaved in the most vulgar fashion.
The testimony of another witness further corroborates it. So, as rightly pointed out by the state(prosecution) that it was a case where Jessica Lal was murdered for a row over the drink, the court said. An adverse inference could be drawn on the non explanation of a pistol .22" bore P Berretta, made in Italy which was duly endorsed on Sharma’s arms licence, it said.
It is proved beyond reasonable doubt on record that extensive efforts were made to trace the pistol and the same could not be recovered.
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