Manu Sharma remanded to police custody
for five more days
Suhasini Haidar in New Delhi
Manu Sharma, prime accused in the Jessica Lal murder case, was today remanded to a further five days in police custody by a metropolitan magistrate in Delhi.
The order came in response to a police application asking for an extension of his remand.
Sharma has already spent a week in police custody, during which he has been interrogated for details of the killing.
According to the police, the 25-year-old sugar mill-owner and son of former Union minister Vinod Sharma has confessed to having killed
Jessica Lal in a Delhi bar on April 30 after a fight over her refusal to serve him drinks.
The police said today in their application that in the course of their interrogation, Sharma had admitted to knowing the location of the murder weapon, a .22 revolver that was used in the murder. Prosecution counsel Ajay Maiar argued that Manu Sharma would have to be taken to Manali, where the weapon reportedly is, to recover it.
The police also disclosed that Titu, an accomplice of Sharma who allegedly helped him evade arrest for a week and dispose of the weapon, was missing. They believe Titu has fled the country.
But Station House Officer Surendra Kumar Yadav said they had been able to tape a telephone conversation between Titu and his friend Ashok Dutt, establishing Titu's role in the events that took place after the murder.
At the beginning of the hearing, defence counsel Dinesh Mathur appealed to Metropolitan Magistrate V K Khanna, asking him to pass strictures against the police for not producing Sharma directly after his medical examination and for "forcing" him to sign a statement of disclosure.
"If this kind of laxity is given to the prosecution," Mathur argued, "nobody in this country is safe from police harassment."
The police, however, denied his charges. Today was Sharma's second appearance in court, and it was attended by three of Jessica Lal's relatives, including her father and sister.
While her father refused to comment on the proceedings, saying merely that he was "too tired", her sister Sabrina said they had come to court merely to see how far the proceedings had gone.
As Manu Sharma entered the jam-packed courtroom, there was a moment of tension as his eyes met the eyes of the sister of the woman he has been accused of killing, but he passed on without acknowledging her.
Sharma, who looked confident throughout the hearing, even helping his lawyer out with details when required, was visibly deflated after hearing that he would have to go back to the lockup for five more days.
As he left the court, a horde of photographers and television cameramen blocked his path. Today was the first day Sharma was produced without a towel over his face, and all the lensmen were keen to get his picture.
In fact, when the police escorted him to a waiting car and tried to drive away, the irate cameramen, some of whom had been waiting since morning for a glimpse of Sharma, refused to let the vehicle pass unless he was brought out for more pictures.
Overriding the protests of the defence lawyers present, the police then led Sharma out. Only then were they allowed to take him back to the police station.
Sharma will now be produced in court again on May 17.
Technically, he can then be remanded to custody for a further three days, after which it will be necessary for the police to move him to judicial custody. By then, say police sources, they hope to have recovered the weapon used in the murder, as also to have some knowledge of the whereabouts of the last missing suspect, Vikas Yadav.
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