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7 years on... Jessica's murder still a poser!

The eerie silence that meets this puzzle is disconcerting, more so for her sister.

india Updated: Apr 29, 2006 11:24 IST

The seventh death anniversary of slain model Jessica Lall will be observed on Sunday, yet her sister -- who is preparing to spend the day in prayers -- and much of civil society are still waiting for justice.

Why were the culprits not punished? Who were the police officials responsible for letting the guilty get away? The eerie silence that meets these questions is disconcerting, especially for her sister Sabrina Lall.

Sabrina spent Saturday in solitude for it was on the intervening night of April 29 and 30 in 1999 that Jessica was shot dead.

The death anniversary on Sunday would be marked by a prayer session at a church in south Delhi, she said.

"The prayer meeting is being organised both for Jessica and for my father who died on April 22," she said.

"These two days changed the course of our family forever but even after so many years we still do not have answers as to why the culprits were not punished and who were the police officials who tampered with evidence to help the murderers," Sabrina informed a news agency.

"It has been seven years now and it is time we started getting answers to our questions."

"Though I think that the ongoing investigations are an honest effort, the police are unable to pinpoint the people who had conspired to tamper with the case and helped the accused get away," she said.

On the night of the murder, Jessica was filling in as a bartender at the Tamarind Court restaurant, situated near the Qutab Minar in New Delhi and run by socialite Bina Ramani.

Jessica was allegedly shot dead by Manu Sharma alias Siddhartha Vashishtha, the son of a Haryana minister, when she refused to serve him a drink, saying the bar had closed for the day.

The bar has since shut down as Ramani was functioning without a licence.

Though there were three eyewitnesses in the case, most of them turned hostile which resulted in the acquittal of all the nine accused, including Manu Sharma, in February this year.

But the decision of the court led to a public outcry and forced police to start investigations against its own officials whose role in the Jessica murder probe came under suspicion. The trial too has been restarted.

Delhi Police Commissioner KK Paul had earlier carried out an internal inquiry in the case and found a criminal conspiracy between police officials and the accused.

However, no action was taken on the report. At the time of the internal inquiry, Paul was posted as joint commissioner, crime branch.

Sabrina added that Delhi Police do not inform her about the progress in the case but if she inquires about anything, they do answer some of her questions.

"They (police) do not tell me about the case but if I question them, they do answer some of my questions," she said.

Sabrina also said in the past few months, she had been unable to keep track of the investigations as the health of her father, Ajit Lall, had been deteriorating. He passed away this month without seeing justice.

But Sabrina, who is one of three surviving siblings in the family and runs a company, still manages to see a silver lining.

"My sister's case has helped so many families come up against the faulty investigations of the police. If this case is able to bring some change then many people will have a lasting impact of the case," she said.

"The failure of police in nabbing the guilty does speak about the criminal justice system of the country," said Sabrina.

She said when the accused were acquitted by court, her family was not surprised as police were unable to prove the case and witnesses had turned hostile.

Meanwhile, senior officials of Delhi Police said they were close to finding the erring officials and disciplinary and legal action could be taken against them.

"We have questioned over 30 people, including senior police officials, and if anyone is found to have misused his power then action will be taken," an investigating official said.

He added that police have also questioned six senior police officials who were present in the party at Tamarind Court and had seen Manu Sharma there.

Police have also questioned three witnesses -- Bina Ramani, her daughter Malini Ramani and model turned actor Shayan Munshi in connection with the case.

First Published: Apr 29, 2006 10:44 IST