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Jessica Lal case: Verdict expected on Monday
December 17, 2006 15:41 IST
The Delhi High Court will pronounce its verdict in the Jessica Lal murder case on Monday. The case was re-opened following the police appeal challenging the acquittal of all nine accused, including Sidharth Vashisht alias Manu Sharma by a lower court.
A bench of Justices R S Sodhi and P K Bhasin, which reserved its order after hearing arguments from the defence and prosecution on November 29 after a day-to-day hearing over 25 days, is set to give its verdict at 2pm on Monday.
Appearing for Delhi Police, Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium said there was enough evidence to prove that it was Sharma who killed Jessica on the intervening night of April 29-30, 1999.
The statements of key witness Bina Ramani, her husband George Mailhot and daughter Malini, Subramanium said, clearly established the fact that Manu, who was in a white T-shirt and blue jeans, had fired the fatal shot at Jessica.
The bench should reject the statement of complainant and eyewitness Shyan Munshi as he was found to be a liar, he said.
Subramanium also asked the court to ignore ballistic reports, saying these were manipulated by Sharma's family.
In the first report submitted by Roop Singh, an expert opined that two empty catridges were fired from two different weapons, while expert P S Minocha said in the second report he would be able to give a decision after the suspected weapon was found.
Subramanium alleged the accused had made frantic calls to each other and to their families. The mobile and landline telephone details of the accused gives a clear picture of this.
The post-incident conduct of the accused should be taken into consideration, he said.
Manu went underground and the other accused absconded for several days after the murder. While Manu went underground for six days and surrendered before a court in Chandigarh, co-accused Vikas Yadav absconded and obtained interim bail from a court in Manipur, he said.
Countering the prosecution's stand that Manu was the prime accused in the case, senior lawyer Ram Jethmalani denied his presence at the party where Jessica was killed.
He said police falsely implicated Manu.
Jethmalani said, "Despite prosecution's argument the case against Sharma is minus zero."
Bina Ramani and her family supported the prosecution as there was a threat from police that they would be booked under the Excise Act for running an illegal bar, Jethmalani argued.
He contended the Ramani family was harrassed until it supported the police against Manu and asked the court not to rely on their testimony.
Giving new twist to the case, Jethmalani said it was not Manu but a tall gentleman with a red turban was believed to have fired the shot that killed Jessica. She was killed not for denying to serve liquor to Manu but because she had challenged the killer's manlihood. Therefore, the motive was not liqor but something else, he claimed.
He emphasised the ballistic expert's report and supported the statement by hostile witness Munshi. He also said the trial court's order of acquittal was justified.
Accusing the prosecution of fabricating evidence, he said police planted some witnesses like Deepak Bhojwani as he was close to Jessica's family.
Besides prime accused Manu Sharma, the son of former Haryana minister Venod Sharma, other accused are Vikas Yadav, the son of former Rajya Sabha MP D P Yadav, and Amardeep Singh Gill alias Tony Gill, an employee of a top soft drinks firm.
Two employees of Sharma's company Piccadily Agro Industries, Alok Khanna and Harvinder Chopra, Manu's uncle Shyanm Sunder Sharma, former cricketer Yog Raj Singh and friends Vikas Gill alias Ruby Gill and Raja Chopra are also accused in the case.
In the intervening night of April 29-30, 1999, Jessica was shot dead allegedly by Manu Sharma after she refused to serve him drinks at a restaurant owned by socialite Bina Ramani.
Manu, Vikas Yadav, Amardeep Singh Gill and Alok Khanna had gone to attend a party at the Qutub Collonade on the fateful night. On February 21 this year, all the accused were acquitted by trial judge S L Bhayana, now a judge in the High Court. In March, Delhi Police filed their appeal in the High Court.