The Delhi High Court has said the tone of the trial court’s judgment in the murder case of model Jessica Lall indicated that Additional Sessions Judge SL Bhayana was in a hurry to acquit Manu Sharma and the other accused.
This is, undoubtedly, the high court’s most critical remark against Bhayana while reversing his order. Not only did the division bench of Justice R S Sodhi and Justice PK Bhasin term Bhayana ‘s reasoning for acquitting Manu “immature”, and “positively perverse”, but also that it was a “result of non-application of mind” and “totally wrong”.
The bench said the trial court judge, now a high court judge, had violated all rules of appreciation of evidence by questioning the credibility of key witnesses on flimsy grounds causing the case to collapse.
The judges said the trial court had upheld the arguments of the defence without proper substantiation in its 178-page judgment. These included the damaging contention that Manu Sharma was “framed”, Bina Ramani was “a planted witness”, George Mailhot and Deepak Bhojwani were “not even present” at the crime scene and that the “Tata Safari was a planted”.
The high court was also surprised that Bhayana believed two weapons were used to murder Jessica.
The defence had supported this with the aid of experts and witness Shyan Munshi without getting to the root of the theory. The court also pointed out a series of contradictions in Bhayana’s conclusions.
“Obviously this reflects total lack of application of mind and suggests a hasty approach towards securing a particular end, namely the acquittals…. With very great respect to the learned judge, we may point out that this manner of testing the credibility of the witness is hardly a rule of appreciation of evidence,” the division bench said on page 32 of the 61-page judgment.
“It is not necessary that every witness must see the other and only then can they be relied upon. Each witness deposes to what he saw or what he did. Merely because out of 100 people present, some witness does not see the other witness is no ground to discard his evidence”, the Bench said.
The judges further pointed out, “the trial court itself relies upon this witness to show the presence of the accused persons and yet goes on to hold him as false witness”.
Criticising the trial judge’s findings on Bhojwani who identified Manu in the court, the high court said though the judge relied upon him to establish the presence of the accused, Manu, Amardeep, Vikas and Alok, at the party, yet it agrees with the counsel for the accused that he has been introduced as a false witness.
The high court also criticised the discarding of Malini Ramani’s testimony. “We find it quite strange that at one stage trial court has returned a categorical finding that four accused were present inside the Tamarind Cafe and that finding has been given only on the evidence of Bhojwani, Malini, Bina and George, yet their evidence was doubted and that too without making a real analysis of their evidence”.
The high court also saw contradictions in Bhayana’s conclusion that Investigating Officer Surender Sharma framed Manu Sharma at the instance of senior officials.
The judges observed that in another page of the judgment, Bhayana says the IO learnt about Manu’s role from the statement given by Amardeep Singh Gill and Aloke Khanna after their arrest.