After convicting Manu Sharma in the Jessica Lall murder case in December last year, the Delhi High Court on Thursday asked the 29 hostile witnesses to file an affidavit explaining why they retracted from their earlier statement in the court during the case trial.
The Division Bench of Justice RS Sodhi and PK Bhasin granted two weeks time to the hostile witnesses for filing their replies. The court on December 20, 2006 had directed the police to issue notices to 32 hostile witnesses, out of which three including an eyewitness Karan Rajput died during the trial.
The other 29 witnesses including actor Shyan Munshi, food-for-oil scam accused businessman Andaleeb Sehgal, deputy director State Forensic Science laboratory PS Manocha and electrician Shiv Das were present in the court on Thursday morning.
With a tilak on his forehead, Munshi was the first hostile witness to reach the court. Munshi, wearing a blue shirt beneath a cream striped blue sweater and black trousers, was accompanied by his wife Piya and his counsel Sudarshan Rajan to the court.
The court proceedings began sharp at 10:30 am with Justice Sodhi marking the attendance of the witnesses against whom the notices where issued. During the proceedings, 23 of 29 were present in the court. The Bench directed issuing of non-bailable warrants against the other six. A few minutes after the proceedings three out of the remaining six witnesses also reached the court. By 3 pm, all 29 witnesses had marked their presence in the courtroom. The Bench then cancelled their warrants.
Coming out of the court, Munshi and his wife headed towards their lawyer's chamber. "I have yet not proven guilty, court has only asked me to file an affidavit", Munshi told HT after the hearing.
The case will now come up for hearing on February 19. Responding to the court’s order, Mukta Gupta the standing counsel for state said that they would be placing the evidence before the court after going through the replies. "If required, the prosecution will place before the court the evidence to prove that these witnesses retracted from their statements," said Gupta.
During the proceedings the court also directed the police to supply a copy of all the relevant documents, including the statements of the witnesses, given to the police and later to the court and the statement of the Investigating Officers who recorded their statements to the defense counsel of the witnesses. The court gave these directions after the defence requested for extension of the given time to four weeks stating this reason.
The Bench has exempted the witnesses, who have a counsel to represent them from appearing in the court in person on the next date of hearing.