The Delhi High Court on Wednesday awarded life imprisonment to Manu Sharma, son of Congress leader Venod Sharma, for murdering model Jessica Lall in 1999. Contrary to the perception that life sentence means 14 years’ imprisonment, Manu will have to spend his entire life in jail.
He was also given four years’ imprisonment on each count for destruction of evidence, criminal conspiracy and possessing an illegal weapon. The sentences will run concurrently.
The Supreme Court ruled recently that a convict who is awarded life sentence would be imprisoned for the rest of his life, unless the government passed an order remitting the sentence to facilitate his early release.
Manu, who along with other convicts was present in the court, reacted by saying: “Mere bhagya main yehi tha. Taqdeer ka faisla yehi tha (This was in my fate. This was decided by destiny).”
Manu's accomplices, Vikas Yadav — son of Uttar Pradesh politician DP Yadav — and Amardeep Singh Gill (Tony Gill), who had taken Manu's car away from the spot where the murder was committed, got four years’ sentences for destruction of evidence and criminal conspiracy.
Manu’s lawyer said he would appeal against the order in the Supreme Court.
The prosecution had demanded the death sentence for Manu for “murdering an innocent, helpless woman without any provocation and going on to interfere with the administration of justice.” It said this brought the case within the ambit of “rarest of rare category,” the Supreme Court's benchmark for awarding the death sentence.
Manu’s lawyer pleaded for leniency, saying his client was not a habitual criminal and should be given a chance to reform.
A division bench of justices RS Sodhi and PK Bhasin agreed with the prosecution only to the extent that the case had “shocked the confidence of society in the criminal delivery system.” The bench said the murder, although intentional, was committed without premeditation and therefore life imprisonment was enough.
The court also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on Manu. The amount will go to Jessica’s family.
On Monday, the court — hearing the appeal filed by the Delhi Police against a lower court’s acquittal of nine accused in February — had convicted Manu, Vikas and Amardeep. Six others had been acquitted.