Manu Sharma (32), convicted of the murder of model Jessica Lall, was reportedly spotted at a Delhi nightclub on Friday night. Sharma is out on parole ostensibly because his mother is “seriously ill”.
But the next day, his mother Shakti Rani who was said to be ill organised a press conference announcing an under-19 national women’s cricket tournament at Chandigarh’s Piccadilly Hotel that the Sharma family owns.
Rani was recently seen in public several times. She had filed her nomination as a covering candidate for her husband Venod Sharma from Ambala City assembly seat during the recently held Haryana assembly elections.
The efforts of Hindustan Times to contact Venod Sharma proved futile. Sharma is a senior Haryana Congress leader and has been a state cabinet minister.
Manu Sharma was initially granted parole for one month, which was later extended for another month till November 22.
The whole issue has now snowballed into a political controversy with Delhi BJP chief Vijay Kumar Malhotra accusing Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit of providing preferential treatment to Manu Sharma.
“Sharma is on parole on the false pretext of his mother’s illness. The parole was recommended by Dikshit which is condemnable. She took the decision under pressure from Congress leaders as he is the son of an influential Congress leader,” Malhotra said.
He demanded that Delhi Lieutenant-Governor Tejinder Khanna cancel the parole.
Dikshit, however, said there was nothing “illegal” about the parole.
“We processed his application within the ambit of law. There are many levels involved — the prisons department, Delhi Police and the Delhi Home Secretary and then me. The Home Secretary scrutinised the application and sent it to me. I signed it and sent it to the L-G. I don’t personally scrutinise applications,” said Dikshit.
She added that the prisons department moved the application based on his conduct in jail.
Asked if she was going to get the role of those scrutinising the convict’s claim investigated, Dikshit said there was no formal complaint so far. “We will take action if someone complaints.”
Legal experts, however, pointed at procedural lapses. “Forget the granting of parole. I can’t imagine a convict even asking for parole to attend family business matters,” Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan said.
Supreme Court lawyer Kamini Jaiswal said before granting parole it should have been verified whether there was no one to attend the ailing mother.
“If it was given solely for attending business matters, the decision of the authorities is completely outrageous.”
Dikshit, however, alluded to a political controversy being created. “Manu Sharma’s parole is set to get over in a few days — and suddenly the matter has come to light. No one mentioned it before.”
Why Manu Sharma is in jail
Manu Sharma, son of a Haryana politician, had been serving a life term at Delhi’s Central Prisons at Tihar.
He was convicted of shooting Jessica Lall for refusing to serve him a drink on April 29, 1999, at the Tamarind Court Bar at Qutab Colonnade in Mehrauli. The bar is owned by socialite Bina Ramani. Lall was the celebrity bar tender that night.