SRB rejects plea of Manu Sharma, Santosh Singh
The seven-member sentence review board (SRB) on Friday approved the early release of 59 prisoners and rejected the petitions of 145 prisoners, including Siddharth Vashisth alias Manu Sharma and Santosh Singh.
The Delhi High Court had awarded to life imprisonment to Sharma, son of former union minister Venod Sharma, for the murder of model Jessica Lal.
Singh, an advocate and son of a senior Delhi Police officer, was sentenced to death by the high court for the murder of Delhi University student Priyadarshini Mattoo. The Supreme Court commuted it to life imprisonment in 2010.
A senior government official privy to Friday’s board meeting, who did not wish to be named, said, “The board decided not to release Sharma and Singh, along with 143 other prisoners. 205 cases were taken up during the board meeting. 59 prisoners were released. The case of one prisoner could not be taken up because he has already filed a plea before the Supreme Court.”
According to rules, the rejected petitions would be taken up again in the next meeting. Earlier this year, Sharma had approached the high court after the board rejected his premature release in its last meeting in October 2018.
Sharma filed his plea a month after the court ordered the release of former youth Congress leader Sushil Sharma, convicted of his wife’s murder in the Tandoor murder case. Sushil’s case too was rejected by the board in October and he approached court, saying he had served over 23 years in prison despite having good conduct.
Sharma’s lawyer Amit Sahni said, “It is shocking and shows the sorry state of affairs. There are 14 parameters the board considers for release. Sharma fulfils all 14. In addition, he served time in the semi-open jail and is now in open jail. The jail, prison, and welfare officer have given a positive report for his prison conduct. The high court had taken cognisance of the positive reports submitted by the three departments and asked SRB to consider his release. But they rejected his plea. It is sad. We will again approach the high court.”
“Convicts who do not fulfil the 14 parameters have been released. My client has undergone more than 22 years of incarceration (with remission). We are sure the high court would grant relief when we approach it as his was the fittest case among all for premature release,” said Sahni.
Sahni said Lal’s sister Sabrina had written to the prison authorities, saying she had forgiven Sharma and would have no problem if he is released. “It seems the 14-parameter rule apply only to other prisoners.”
The seven-member board consists comprise the state home minister as its chairman and the prison’s director-general, state home secretary, state law secretary, a district judge, the government’s chief probationary officer and a joint commissioner-rank officer of Delhi Police.
Sabrina Lal said her focus was never the quantum of punishment. She said it has been nearly 20 years since “Jess”, her sister, was killed and it was time to “let go and move on”. “I have never bayed for blood. We fought for justice and God willing we got it. Now I really don’t care what happens to him,” she said over the phone.