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HC faults trial court order

Says trial court wrongly recorded deposition, prosecution did not do enough, reports Harish V Nair.

india Updated: Dec 19, 2006 02:20 IST

The Delhi High Court on Monday attributed Manu Sharma’s acquittal in the Jessica Lall murder case to shoddy trial by Additional Sessions judge SL Bhayana and the “liberal concessions” given to the accused by the special public prosecutor.

The Division Bench of Justice RS Sodhi and Justice PK Bhasin said Bina Ramani’s testimony alone was sufficient to convict Manu Sharma.

"This kind of trial caused grave miscarriage of  justice. The accused got liberal concessions from the public prosecutor too" --High court while pronouncing the verdict

“But the prosecutor messed up her deposition and the trial court wrongly recorded them,” the bench maintained.

The court found that Bina had clearly said she had heard the gun shot, turned around and saw Jessica falling, saw a fair chubby man in a white T-shirt running away, stopped him, asked him why he had shot Jessica and even told him to hand over the gun.

“This clearly shows she had herself seen Manu Sharma shooting Jessica Lall as otherwise she had no reason to ask him why he had shot Jessica Lall. Her statement is admissible by itself and does not even need corroboration by other witnesses”, the judges said.

The Bench averred that the trial court discarded her statement seemingly on a concession made by the public prosecutor who asked the court to “appreciate the feeling” of Bina that Manu might have shot Jessica and also that she had admitted she was not an eyewitness.

“The trial court, instead of itself reading Bina’s evidence, proceeded to wrongly record the acceptance of this submission”, causing grave miscarriage of justice. “There is no doubt the court is not supposed to simply convict someone without evidence but at the same time the court is also to ensure that the guilty are not allowed to go free simply accepting concessions made by the public prosecutor”, the judges said.

The bench said though the identity of the “man in the white T-shirt“ was doubtful even from her statement, the prosecutor should have made an effort to identify him by coupling it with the statements of other witnesses like Malini Ramani, George Mailhot and Deepak Bhojwani (who had named Manu Sharma) all of who had talked about the “fair chubby man” in a white T-shirt.

The High Court had derived the identity of Manu Sharma in this manner.

“The way the case was conducted by the prosecutor could be likened to a man cutting the same branch on which he is sitting,” the judges remarked.

The bench also observed that on many occasions the prosecutor had not confronted the witnesses with the statement made earlier to police, under Section 161 CrPC, as per procedure whenever they deviated from it while deposing before court. Therefore, the ultimate beneficiaries were the accused.

First Published: Dec 19, 2006 02:20 IST