Delhi High Court on Dec 18 held Manu Sharma, the prime accused in the high-profile Jessica Lall murder case, guilty under Section 302 of IPC. Vikas Yadav, another accused in the case, was also convicted in the case. A ninth accused, Vikas Gill, has been declared a proclaimed offender. The two co-accused also face a sentence ranging from three to seven years. Vikas Yadav, is in fact also the main accused in the murder of Nitish Katara. Manu is the son of former Union Minister (there after also Haryana minister) powerful and wealthy politician of Congress with business interests in sugar mills.
However, the court absolved five other accused in the case for lack of evidence.
According to the sources, a Bench of Justices R. S. Sodhi and P. K. Bhasin gave its judgement today after a day-to-day hearing in the case for over 25 days.
Manu Sharma's defense counsel has said that it will appeal in Supreme Court now.
Ahead of Jessica Lall murder case verdict on Monday, Bina Ramani, a key witness in the case, said “I had been long waiting for this day and had full faith in judiciary and Indian judicial system. I am confident that justice would be done," She added,” If I’m so relieved I can’t even imagine what Sabrina must feel like. Bina Ramani was in tears… emotionally recounting Jessica’s last moments as she struggled for breath in the car on the way to the hospital.”
Sabrina Lall, the victim Jessica’s sister said that she hoped for the best but was also prepared to face the worst. Now today her face is shining with smile.
The verdict was given on the basis of socialite Bina Ramani's testimony. The prosecution cited 92 grounds for a review of the lower court verdict and the high court agreed to all of them.
The trial has made headlines after a lower court acquitted the accused killer — the son of a wealthy politician — earlier this year, sparking a controversy over the country's legal system.
The acquittal drew sharp criticism from New Delhi 's citizens, who held street protests for several days, forcing authorities to reopen the investigation
In recent months, however, the courts have convicted several powerful individuals accused of crimes, including a Cabinet minister Shibu Soren who was sentenced to life imprisonment earlier this month.
There were following accused in the case.
Manu Sharma: Prime accused, charged with murder.
Vikas Yadav: Charged with harbouring a criminal, destruction of evidence
Tony Gill: Charged with harbouring a criminal, destruction of evidence and conspiracy.
Alok Khanna: Charged with harbouring a criminal, destruction of evidence & conspiracy.
Vikas Gill: Charged with harbouring a criminal.
Shyam Sunder Sharma: Charged with harbouring a criminal, destruction of evidence and conspiracy.
Yograj Singh: Charged with harbouring a criminal.
Raja Chopra: Charged with harbouring a criminal
Renowned Supreme Court lawyer and the former Law Minister Ram Jethmalani was Sharma's counsel. He was also the counsel of the accused in the assassination of Indira Gandhi. Though now Jethmalani is the favorite of Sonia Gandhi. Jethmalani with Shanti Bhushan also pleased on behalf of Prof. Geelani an accused in the Parliament Attack Case. He has been acquitted because of these two former Union Law Ministers who are vocal to criticize the opposition especially the BJP.
Jethmalani had on November 8 shocked the people sitting in the Delhi High Court when he claimed that it was "a tall Sikh gentleman" who fired at and killed Jessica on the fateful night, seven years ago. In the starting he had also said that accused Manu would walk.
Jethmalani had also moved a plea of transferring the case to another bench since on the grounds that there were media reports against Justices R S Sodhi. However, this was rejected by the High Court.
Attacking the media for "running a vilified campaign against his client Manu Sharma", Jethmalani had gone on to say that media was acting in an 'unjust' way in portraying his client as guilty and that the whole case has become a trial by the media.
A Delhi Court had on February 21, 2006 acquitted Manu Sharma and Vikas Yadav, sons of Congress politicians, along with seven other co-accused in the sensational murder case.
Model Jessica Lal was shot at point blank range on the night of April 29, 1999 while she was working as a celebrity bar maid in the Tamarind Court Bar owned by socialite Bina Ramani.
It was alleged that Lal was murdered by Manu Sharma alias Siddharth Vashist, son of Congress politician and former Union Minister of State for Food and Civil Supplies Vinod Sharma, after she refused to serve him a drink since the bar had closed for the day.
The Delhi Police in its primary investigation also indicted Vikas Yadav, the son of former Rajya Sabha Parliamentarian D P Yadav, along with ten others.
The sensational murder case had a high profile list of accused which included names like Amardeep Singh Gill, Coca-Cola company officials Alok Khanna, Shyam Sunder Sharma, Amit Jhingan, Yograj Singh, Harvinder Chopra, Vikas Gill, Raja Chopra, Ravinder Krishan Sudan and Dhanraj.
They had been charged under sections 120(b), 302, 201 and 212 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
But an Additional Session Judge acquitted Manu Sharma on the murder charges and Vikas Yadav, Amardeep Singh Gill, Alok Khanna and Shyam Sunder Sharma on the charges of destroying evidences.
The verdict had come after a long hiatus of six years in which the case saw numerous twists and turns with a large number of witnesses turning hostile.
Deepak Bhojwani, socialite Bina Ramani, her husband George Mailhot, and her daughter Malini had testified that they had seen prime accused Manu Sharma with three other co-accuseds at the party. (ANI)
Chronology of events
Dec 18, 2006 : Delhi High Court convicts Manu Sharma for murdering Jessica Lal. Vikas Yadav and Amardeep Gill found guilty of conspiracy and destruction of evidence. Six other accused acquitted.
Nov 29: Delhi High Court reserves order.
Nov 03: Ram Jethmalani seeks transfer of case.
Oct 03: Hearing starts in High Court. Manu ropes in noted criminal lawyer Ram Jethmalani
A total of 25 hearings took place since the case was reopened in March after the Delhi Police registered a case against unknown persons for tampering of evidence and criminal conspiracy in the wake of strong criticism for its shoddy investigation that helped the acquittal of the accused.
Apr 29/30, 1999: Model Jessica Lal shot dead at Tamarind Court , a restaurant owned by socialite Bina Ramani in south Delhi . Siddharth Vashisht, alias Manu Sharma, is main suspect.
May 4: Co-accused, Amardeep Singh Gill alias Tony and Ashok Khanna, arrested.
May 6: Manu surrenders in Chandigarh .
May 8: Bina Ramani, husband George Mailhot and daughter Malini arrested, and later bailed out, for serving liquor without a license.
May 10: Jt C P ( New Delhi ) Y S Dadwal, who was at the restaurant on April 30, is relieved from his post.
Aug 3: Chargesheet filed against twelve persons.
Nov 24, 2000 : Charges framed.
May 3, 2001 : Eyewitness Shayan Munshi turns hostile.
May 05: Witness electrician Shiv Das turns hostile.
May 16: Third key witness Karan Rajput turns hostile.
Oct 12: Bina Ramani identifies Manu as the person whom she had tried to stop from fleeing the crime scene.
Apr 12, 2005 : HC grants bail to Manu.
Feb 21, 2006 : All accused acquitted of all charges. Decision based on witnesses turning hostile and prosecution failure to recover murder weapon.
Feb 23: An internal inquiry report by Delhi Police raises doubts about collusion between investigators and accused.
Feb 24: HC takes suo motu cognizance of acquittal and directs Delhi Police to furnish all details by April 19
Public outcry against the acquittal
Feb 25: Delhi Police chief K K Paul takes action against Jessica case investigating officer Surender Sharma.
Feb 27: IO Sharma says he did nothing without the consent of Kanth and then DCP (south) Sudhir Yadav. Says CFSL man Roop Singh replaced one of the two cartridges sent to lab.
Mar 4: Roop Singh denies allegations by IO Sharma.
Mar 13: Delhi police file appeal in HC against acquittal.
Apr 18: HC issues NBW against Vikas Gill. Fast tracks the case.
Sept 27: A sting operation shows how key witnesses were allegedly threatened or bought over.
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