The Delhi high court on Friday asked Bollywood actor Shayan Munshi and 18 other hostile witnesses facing perjury charges in the Jessica Lall murder case why they could not stick to statements given to the police while deposing in the trial court.
The court's query came in response to Munshi's lawyer Aman Lekhi relying on certain technicalities to prove that Munshi had not deviated much from his original statements though there had been some minor inconsistencies.
"Only in a courtroom can such fine distinction based on technicalities be made. Why did the witnesses not stick to what they said earlier and why did they have to invite perjury proceedings at all?" asked a bench headed by Justice S Ravindra Bhat.
The court was hearing the witnesses in the case to ascertain if a perjury case could be made out against them. The trial comes 10 months after the Supreme Court upheld the High Court's decision of awarding a life sentence to Manu Sharma for murdering model Jessica Lall on April 29, 1999 at a party in Qutub Colonnade at Mehrauli.
After overturning the trial court's decision to acquit Sharma, the HC had initiated perjury proceedings against several witnesses, saying: "A bad state of affairs. Witnesses turning hostile appear to be the order of the day. Courts must put an end to it as it thwarts the course of justice."
Terming the proceedings "wholly untenable", Lekhi said that the SC had relied on Munshi's statements to convict Manu Sharma and "the apex court had not made any observations against Munshi". "Some inconsistencies in statements does not make one a hostile witness" Lekhi said.
As per the FIR, Munshi had told the police that he saw Sharma fire twice, once into the air and once at Jessica. In the trial court, he had said that two persons shot at and did not identify Sharma. He said that the police wrote many things in Hindi which he had never said and that since he "did not know the language", he was "not aware of what was being taken down".