Will Manu Sharma and friends be convicted in the Jessica Lall murder case or will they be acquitted once again? The question on top of everyone’s mind, ever since the Delhi Police filed an appeal against the acquittal of the nine accused nine months ago, will finally get answered on Monday.
A division bench comprising Justice RS Sodhi and Justice PK Bhasin will on Monday pronounce its verdict on the appeal filed by the Delhi Police after trial judge SL Bhayana set free Manu Sharma and other eight accused on February 21, 2006.
The police was forced to challenge the trial court order following public outcry in the form of demonstrations, SMS campaigns and candle light vigils against the “denial of justice”.
There was a feeling that Manu Sharma and co-accused Vikas Yadav, both sons of powerful politicians, had influenced the police probe and trial to secure an acquittal.
“I have been waiting for seven years to get justice. Let me tell you I am very very tense thinking about the verdict. The tension is killing. It will remain till the judgement is out,” said Jessica’s sister Sabrina Lall.
If there is some apprehension in her mind, it is borne out of the bench’s strong words against the prosecutor in the trial court and the investigating officer for messing up the case. “They have themselves destroyed the case and are blaming the accused,” the bench had repeatedly observed during the arguments.
So is Sabrina optimistic? “Things seem to be positive. The prosecution has argued the appeal well. I can only hope for the best,” she told the Hindustan Times.
After hearing the arguments, the bench had reserved its orders on November 29. This was the same bench, which, on October 31, sentenced to death Santosh Kumar Singh who raped and murdered Priyadarshini Mattoo.
Seeking the conviction of all the accused freed by the trial court, the prosecution constructed a chain of events based on strong circumstantial evidence, statements of Bina Ramani and part testimonies of hostile witnesses against them.
According to the police, Model Jessica Lall was shot dead by Manu, son of a former Haryana Minister during a party at Mehrauli’s Qutub Colonnade owned by socialite Bina Ramani on the night of April 29, 1999, for refusing liquor. Senior criminal lawyer Ram Jethmalani, who defended Manu, sought to demolish the prosecution case built around the deposition of Bina Ramani.
Jethmalani claimed that an “influential” Sikh man had shot Jessica for not “satiating his sexual desire” and the police at his behest framed Manu by pressuring witnesses. He claimed Bina Ramani was a planted witness.
Email Harish Nair: harish .email@example.com