Contradictory statements by witnesses is enough to acquit an accused on the grounds of benefit of doubt, said veteran lawyer Ram Jethmalani in defence of Manu Sharma in the Jessica Lall murder case.
Jethmalani on Thursday summed up his client’s appeal before Supreme Court challenging his conviction and life sentence in the 11-year-old murder case. A bench headed by Justice P. Sathasivam reserved its judgment on the appeal.
The senior advocate took the judges through the basics of criminal law to trash the prosecution version accusing Sharma of shooting Lall to death.
“I will have to argue on some elementary issues because you heard the solicitor general (SG) certain issues but did not protest,” he told the court, complaining that the SG was allowed to read out some statements that were inadmissible in the court.
Jethmalani read out the statements given by fashion designers Malini Ramani and Rohit Bal to contend that the two were conflicting. He refuted SG’s claim that the statements were contemporaneous in nature.
“While Ramani said during the trial that she wasn’t present at the alleged murder site and had fainted after hearing Jessica was shot, Bal recorded on oath that he saw the woman coming out of the hall where the shooting took place,” he added. The different versions of the two on the same episode create benefit of doubt in favour of the accused, he said.
He referred to Ramani’s statement in which the owner of Tamarind Court, where the incident took place on the night April 29, 1999, claimed she heard the bullet shots twice.
Jethmalani said it was an “absurd” and “fancy” argument to have heard the shots but not see them being fired.
“If you hear a shot, common sense requires that you will atleast see somebody pointing the gun either on the roof or the falling victim,” he argued in his rejoinder to the police submissions.