Bollywood actor Shyan Munshi and ballistic expert PS Manocha were slapped with perjury charges by the Delhi high court on Wednesday, which ordered their prosecution for going back on their statements in the murder trial of model Jessica Lall.
Munshi had at first told police he had seen main accused Manu Sharma fire two bullets, one in the air and the other at Jessica that hit her in the eye. He later changed his version and claimed he was not present at the party.
He also claimed he did not understand Hindi and could not decipher the police statement he had signed “in a state of frenzy”.
Munshi had then stated that two people had fired at Jessica.
This was supported by Manocha, who stated that two cartridges of different make had been fired from different guns.
Directing that Munshi and Manocha be tried for perjury, a bench headed by S Ravindra Bhat said it was “prima-facie clear that they had lied in the court to help the accused”.
“Munshi admitted to witnessing the entire episode, and yet declined to identify the real offender. The witness had no explanation for this volte face”, said the High Court.
Manocha had told the police that no definite opinion could be given unless the gun was recovered. The statement was deliberately made to “let the accused off the hook”, the high court said.
If proven guilty, both could be facing seven years in jail
“Better late than never. This is a step in the right direction. Hope it acts as a deterrence against witnesses turning hostile in criminal cases”, Jessica’s sister Sabrina Lall told HT reacting to the court order.
The bench has asked the court’s Registrar General to file a complaint against the two before a lower court where the perjury proceeding will be held. The court also asked the Delhi government to put in place a witness protection policy within ten weeks.
Jessica was gunned down during a high-profile party at the Tamarind Court bar at South Delhi’s Qutub Colonnade on the intervening night of April 29-30, 1999 by Manu Sharma, son of an influential Haryana Congress leader for refusing him a drink after the bar had closed. Sharma is at present serving a life term after his conviction on December 18, 2006 by the Delhi High Court. Two others Amardeep Gill and Vikas Yadav were given four years jail term.
Sharma and other accused had been acquitted on February 21, 2006 after key witnesses had turned hostile.
The court had turned the heat on the witnesses after convicting Sharma noting that “witnesses turning hostile has become the order of the day.
The court however absolved 17 other witnesses of the charges of giving false evidence.