Will convicts in Jessica Lall, tandoor murder cases walk free? Key meeting today
A judge, a top policeman, Delhi’s home minister and four senior government officials are meeting on Tuesday to decide the fate of 90 prisoners who have either served their time in prison or are up for an early release.india Updated: Apr 24, 2018 08:26 IST
On Tuesday afternoon,a judge, a top policeman, Delhi’s home minister and four senior government officials are meeting to decide the fate of 90 prisoners who have either served their time in prison or are up for an early release.
Among the names on the list are those of Manu Sharma and Sushil Sharma, two murder convicts linked with the cases that rank among the country’s most high-profile crime stories, senior officials familiar with the development said.
Manu Sharma (real name Siddhartha Vashishta) is the son of former Haryana minister Venod Sharma. He was convicted of shooting dead model Jessica Lall at point blank range at a private party in 1999 when she refused to serve him a drink. He has served over 15 years in prison.
Former Youth Congress president Sushil Sharma, who was convicted for killing his wife Naina Sahni in what came to be known as the tandoor murder, has been in prison for over 23 years. Sushil Sharma had shot Sahni in the head and then burnt her body in a clay oven at a central Delhi restaurant where his friend was the manager.
Two jail officers said on condition of anonymity that both these convicts, who are serving life terms, have been put up for an early release because of their good conduct as “model prisoners”. “The two have also helped jail officials in managing different departments in the prison such as factory, prisoner meeting system,” one of the officers said.
HT had reported on April 22 that Manu Sharma was among six prisoners in the facility that houses more than 15,000 inmates who had been in ‘open jail’ for the last three months.
In ‘open jail’, a prisoner can leave the jail premises at 8am and return by 6pm, and has to utilise the time by doing social work. Sushil Sharma has been in ‘semi-open jail’ since 2016, which means he can move around inside the prison complex and does not have to be confined to his cell.
The seven officials who will meet on Tuesday as part of the Sentence Review Board include Delhi home minister Satyendar Jain, principal secretary (home) Manoj Kumar Parida, a district judge, joint commissioner of police (crime) Alok Kumar, chief probation officer, law secretary and the prison’s director general Ajay Kashyap, secretary and law, justice and legislative affairs Anoop Kumar Mendiratta.
Senior government officials said that after the meeting of the board, the recommendations will go to Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, who will sign the release order, if any.
Home minister Jain, who chairs the Sentence Review Board, was not available for a comment.
On the day the HT article appeared, Jessica Lall’s elder sister Sabrina told reporters she would have no problems if Manu was released because she believed he had served his time. Jail officials said that Manu’s release could be smoother after Lall’s “forgiveness”.
“I have let go of the anger within me. I need to move on and get rid of this baggage. I have no problems if he is released or whatever deal he gets,” she had said.
Lall said on Monday that she had learned of Manu Sharma’s reformation through a common friend. “We have a mutual friend. He knows Manu’s family too. He told me about Manu’s conduct in prison and how he was a changed man. He gave me details of how Manu is looking after prisoners in jail and also helping them legally and their families financially,” she said, declining to disclose the identity of the mutual friend.
When contacted, Sushil’s mother, Prem Lata Sharma, 81, declined to say much about her son’s case. “He is our only son. We have spent 23 years without him. He has served more than his sentence,” she said.
According to jail officials, Manu, through his NGO Siddhartha Vashishta Charitable Trust, takes care of the tuition, uniforms and cost of stationery of over 700 children of underprivileged prisoners.
Sushil, who is fondly called “bade bhai” (big brother) in the jail, helps prisoners with legal cases. Sushil has also been appointed as one of the prisoner-officers in the central public relation office (CPRO), which helps inmates meet their relatives in prison.
“Let’s see what the Sentence Review Board decides. For the media, it is just a day’s news but for us, it is something of a different level. The release means society is ready to accept our inmate, who leaves prison as a reformed man,” said one of the senior jail officers quoted above.
Jail officials said other prisoners who will be considered for release on Tuesday are Sikander Singh, Jaswinder Singh Jassa, Om Singh and Shashi Shekher. The four, who were convicted for murder, have spent at least 20 years behind bars.