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Key witness in Jessica case dubbed liar by HC
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December 19, 2006 19:15 IST
A key witness in the sensational Jessica Lal [Images] murder case, actor-model Shayan Munshi has come in for scathing criticism by the Delhi High Court which dubbed him a "liar" who took a "somersault" in the court.

In a 61-page judgement on Monday in which they convicted Manu Sharma, son of senior Congerss leader, of murdering model Jessica some seven years ago, Justice R S Sodhi and Justice P K Bhasin said there was no doubt that Munshi had been won over by the accused.

The bench was also strongly critical of S L Bhayana, who as additional sessions judge had acquitted the accused and whose verdict was overturned by it. The judgement says that the ASJ, who has since been elevated as a judge of the high court, had relied upon an eyewitness Deepak Bhojwani to show the presence of the accused at the murder spot and yet, had held him as a "bad witness".

"Obviously, this reflects total lack of application of mind and suggests a hasty approach towards securing a particular end, namely the acquittal," the bench said.

Observing that the criticism of the trial court to the deposition of Bhojwani appears to be "self contradictory," the bench said, "With very great respect to the learned judge, we point out that this manner of testing the credibility of the witness is hardly a rule of appreciation of evidence."

The bench which praised key witness Bina Ramani for her courage to chase the culprit while other socialites present in the party at Tamarind Court did not muster courage to raise a little finger to apprehend Manu, made some scathing remarks against Munshi who deviated from his earlier statement during the trial and was declared hostile.

"In court he has taken a somersault and came out with a version that there were two gentlemen at the bar counter," the bench said.

Munshi in the FIR had stated that there was only one person who had demanded whiskey from the model and on her refusal he had fired two shots, one towards the ceiling and second at her.

The court said though he supported the prosecution's version that the accused was present on the spot as told by him after the offence but deviated in his version when in the trial he stated that Manu had not fired towards ceiling or at Jessica.

"However, we have no manner of doubt that on this aspect he is telling a complete lie," the bench said adding that he has not claimed that police officials had exterted any pressure on him to put his signature on that statement.

"All that he is now claiming is that the said statement was recorded in Hindi while he had narrated the whole story in English as he did not know Hindi at all," the bench said about Munshi, who is acting in some Bollywood films.

"We do not find this explanation of Munshi to be convincing," the court held. It further held that there was another reason for not accepting the version of Munshi as even Bina Ramani had said that his statement was recorded by the Police in her presence and so there was no question that a police official concocted such a detailed statement on his own.

Holding that he came out for the first time in the court that his statement was recorded incorrectly, the bench said, "We have no manner of doubt from the facts and circumstances of this case that he was won over by accused Manu Sharma."

While arriving at this conclusion the court took note of the fact that Munshi had admitted that he was escorted by Manu Sharma's counsel Ashok Bansal when he had come to depose and the same counsel appeared when trial court pronounced the verdict on Februray 21 2006.

"This telltale circumstance leaves no doubt that the new story this witness (Munshi) has introduced during the trial is an afterthought as also a total lie at the instance of the accused," the bench said, adding, "His credibility was totally impeached during his cross-examination by the public prosecutor.

"In these circumstances, we cannot consider this witness to be of any worth," the bench said rejecting senior advocate Jethmalani's contentions that some evidence of even hostile witness can be taken into consideration provided it inspires confidence.

However, the Bench said it did consider Munshi to fall in that category of witness.

"We, therefore, do not find that the testimony of Munshi, in any way, can be utilised to the benefit of the accused Manu Sharma," the bench held.

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