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October 12, 2001
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Bina Ramani identifies Manu Sharma in court

T L Garg in New Delhi

Socialite Bina Ramani, a key prosecution witness in the Jessica Lal murder case, identified Manu Sharma on Friday as the person whom she had tried to stop after the model was shot at her Tamarind Court restaurant.

When Additional Sessions Judge R L Chugh, who is conducting the trial, asked Ramani to physically identify Sharma by touching him, she did so.

Sharma, son of a former Haryana minister, is charged with shooting Jessica Lal on April 29, 1999, after she refused to serve him a drink at the restaurant. Lal was working as a celebrity barmaid.

"The party was over between 1 and 1.30am on April 29, 1999," Ramani told the court. "I saw a few guests in the restaurant where nobody was supposed to be. I saw a few people next to the counter and I heard a shot. A moment later, I heard another shot. Jessica Lal was standing with some people at the far end and I saw her falling down.

"Shyan Munshi [another model and a guest at the party] came out with another person. Shyan Munshi said Jessica Lal had been shot. I told Shyan to call the police, a doctor or an ambulance and I stopped the man accompanying him," Ramani said.

Munshi, who has also been cited by the prosecution as a witness, has turned hostile, denying that he was present on the night of the shooting.

"Shyan's companion was wearing a white T-shirt. He was chubby and fair and I asked who he was," Ramani said.

"'Why are you here and why did you shoot Jessica Lal?' I asked him.

"I also asked him to give me his gun.

"I reached the gate [of the restaurant complex]. My husband was standing there and I told him that this was the man who had shot Jessica Lal and to see what car he gets into," she told the court.

Ramani said Jessica Lal "was still alive and breathing" after the shooting.

"I helped carry her and took her to the main gate and put her in a car which happened to be there to take her to hospital. The car belonged to one Sanjay Mehtani.

"We reached Aashlok Hospital. We remained in Aashlok Hospital for about an hour and then the doctor informed us that he could not handle the case and needed more expertise. He suggested that we should take the case to Apollo Hospital.

"In the meantime, the family of Jessica had also arrived and we all then went to Apollo. We were informed at Apollo that Jessica was no more.

"About a week later, at the police station, the name of which I do not remember, I saw that person. I saw Manu Sharma," Ramani said.

She told the court that Lal and Munshi were friends of her daughter Malini "and were helping her on that night".

Ramani's cross-examination will continue next week.

There are nine accused in the case. All of them except Sharma are out on bail.

Five of the 10 prosecution witnesses examined in the case so far have turned hostile.

Malini Ramani, however, told the court that Sharma had indeed asked for two drinks from Lal, who refused to serve them as the bar was closed.

Another prosecution witness has told the court that he had issued an arms licence to Sharma.

Gurnam Singh, who works in the arms licensing department of the Chandigarh administration, testified that arms licence number 191 had been issued to Sharma.

"After the preparation of the licence, it was given to Siddharth Vasisht [as Manu Sharma is also known]. The licence bears the photograph of Siddharth Vasisht," Singh said.

On Thursday, Surinder Singh, an arms dealer from Ambala in Punjab, 175km from New Delhi, said he had sold a Beretta revolver to Sharma on January 31, 1999.

Naveen Chopra, who owns an arms shop at Karnal, 90km from New Delhi, told the court that he had sold 25 rounds of .22 bore ammunition to Sharma on February 4, 1999.

There are more than 100 witnesses for the prosecution in the case.

Indo-Asian News Service

The Jessica Lal Murder: The complete coverage

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