- Son of the
India politician Venod Sharma
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder:
Date of arrest:
7 days after (surrenders)
Date of birth: 1977
Victim profile: The model Jessica Lall, 34
Method of murder:
Location: New Delhi, India
Status: Sentenced to life in prison on December 20, 2006
Life in Prison for
Indian model killer
The son of India's
governing Congress party has been sentanced to life in
prison for the murder of Jessica Lal in 1999.
Manu Sharma, the son of former
federal minister Venod Sharma, was convicted of shooting
the model in one of Delhi's most fashionable restaurants,
The case was reopened after Sharma
and eight other co-accused were acquitted in February,
prompting a public outcry.
The Delhi high court also ordered
Sharma to pay 50,000 rupees ($1,100) in compensation to
Jessica Lal's family.
While the prosecution had been
demanding Sharma be sentanced to death, the Delhi high
court sentanced him to life in prison, since there was
no evidence to support that the murder was pre-planned.
Two of Sharma's friends, Vikas Yadav,
the son of another politician, and Amardeep Singh Gill,
a former manager with Coca-Cola, were sentenced to four
years in jail for destroying evidence.
Prosecutors said Manu Sharma fired at
Jessica Lal after she refused to serve him a drink at a
Tamarind Court, where she was working as a waitress.
Several eyewitnesses came forward to
the police initially, but retracted their statements by
the time the case came to trial seven years later.
The trial finally collapsed in
February 2006 when the lower court judge said the
prosecution's case contained loopholes and there was
insufficient evidence for a conviction.
The acquittals sparked public outrage,
with protest rallies and a sustained media campaign
launched to demand justice for Jessica Lal, who was 34
when she was killed. Police appealed against the
acquittals and opened an investigation into allegations
that there had been a conspiracy to pervert justice.
Several witnesses and police officials involved in the
case were questioned.
Campaigners said it had been the
latest of many cases where members of India's elite were
able to manipulate the law and get away with murder.
"I am really happy with the judgement.
I really could not ask for more," the murdered model's
sister, Sabrina Lal, told reporters after the sentencing.
(b. 1977) or Siddharth Vashisht is the son of the
India politician Venod Sharma and the convicted murderer
of model Jessica Lall.
His conviction on 18th December 2006
for this 1999 murder, after having been acquitted
earlier, is considered one of the landmark judgments in
Indian Law where a rich, powerful defendant was
In the earlier, widely criticized
trial, the court found many flaws in the prosecution and
all charges were thrown out. The verdict led to a
national outcry, leading to an appeal by the prosecution
at the Delhi High Court, which sentenced him to life
imprisonment while criticizing the lower court judgment.
The son of a powerful politician and
heir to a sugar mill fortune, Manu Sharma and his family
bribed and pressurized witnesses, as revealed in a
Tehelka sting operation. Most of the witnesses changed
their testimony radically during the trial lasting seven
years. Despite dozens of witnesses, Manu Sharma, along
with seven other well-connected defendants, was
acquitted of all charges by judge S.L. Bhayana on
February 21, 2006.
That court decision left a situation
where a person was murdered in view of dozens of people,
yet no one was being held liable. Wide public outcry led
to the case being re-admitted in the Delhi High court in
March 2006, where it was tried on a "fast track" basis.
Around the same time, a media sting
operation on some of the witnesses documented the
processes by which witnesses had been threatened or
bribed. In court, some of the witnesses were re-examined,
and a spurious two-gun theory was thrown out, and Manu
was found guilty on 18 December after 25 sittings.
This case is widely viewed as a
litmus test of India's turning image. It is one of
several where the high and mighty showed themselves to
be above the Law in India (see Sanjeev Nanda). That the
tides were changing was clear in the sentence handed out
by the same High Court bench in the Priyadarshini Mattoo
case. It is widely believed that more than anything else
it is the relatively free press, and especially the new
regional TV channels, that helped bring the case to a
retrial, maintaining the faith of people in the Indian
Manu Sharma is the son of wealthy and
influential Haryana politician Venod Sharma of the
Indian Congress Party. Venod Sharma, who had served as a
Minister at the centre in the Narasimha Rao cabinet, was
president of the Congress Party in Haryana at the time
of the crime. Manu's uncle is the son-in-law of former
president of India, Shankar Dayal Sharma and the family
owns a number of sugar mills and entertainment
businesses in Punjab and Haryana.
After the negative publicity
following the murder, Venod Sharma was denied a congress
ticket for the Parliamentary elections, but he managed
to win an election to the state legislature in 2004 and
was inducted into the State cabinet as Minister of Power.
However after the Tehelka sting
operation named him as being behind the bribes paid to
key witnesses, he resigned to national party chief Sonia
Gandhi in October 2006.
On April 29, 1999, the model Jessica
Lall was shot dead while working as a celebrity barmaid
at a crowded party in Delhi. Manu Sharma, along with
some friends, entered the restaurant around 2 AM, when
the bar had just closed. Manu demanded liquor from
Jessica, and when she refused they had an altercation.
Several people present around the bar saw him fire twice,
once in the air, and once at Jessica, and many witnesses
testified to the police about Manu Sharma being the
Also present at the party was Delhi
Police Joint Commissioner Yudhvir Singh Dadwal (elevated
to Commissioner in July 2007), but he was not present at
the bar during the incident.
Seven days after the murder, Manu
Sharma surrendered to the police, and made a confession
which was tape recorded. On October 2, 2006, the NDTV
news channel obtained the audiotape of the confession
and broadcast some segments from it:
Manu: There was Jessica Lall,
I did not know her name.
I was told even if you give a thousand bucks, I
will not give a sip of wine and I said that we
have got an arrangement there. I pulled out my
... and I fired one shot in the air.
Manu: Yes, that is inside the
Colonnade. So it went into the roof and nobody
bothered, nobody moved. Then I pointed at
Jessica and what I intended to do was I pointed
slightly away from her so that I could see her
hair, I wanted to generally shoot.
Manu: The idea at that time
was to shoot in challenge. It was embarrassing
to hear that even if I paid a thousand bucks I
would not get a sip of drink.
I pointed towards her a little and fired the
shot. So I think I hit someone, I was just
trying to see what had happened, when this lady
comes up there.
Manu: Oldish, thin and she
says you don't worry and stay here and then I
realised something had happened. Then I could
hear people saying somebody has shot.
I knew I should move. I took a lift on scooter/motorcycle
and I saw a little garden and sort of a dhaba
and I put my pistol there. I took a hitch from a
scooter, a Tata Safari and a tractor before I
reached right in front of Tony's house.
Alok and Vikas were all there by that time. When
I inquired, they told me, "I think she is dead".
I said single gunshot, he said, "yes". I said
who is she – "Jessica Lall".
However, the Delhi Police made no
attempt to formalize this statement in front of a
magistrate or to obtain evidence based on this
confession for the trial.
Eye witnesses accounts corroborated
with this confession, and a consistent story emerged:
Manu along with friends Amardeep Singh and Alok Khanna (at
the time both were senior executives with Coca-Cola
India), Vikas Yadav (son of notorious criminal and
member of parliament D. P. Yadav and prime accused in
the Nitish Katara murder case), and Amit Jhingan, had
entered the bar after it had closed. Jessical Lal had
rebuffed Manu's request for a drink. A powerful
politician's son, Manu was unaccustomed to being denied.
According to the testimony of Malini
Ramani, another model serving at the bar with Jessica,
Manu offered to pay Rs 1000 (several times the price of
"I told him that the bar was
closed. Then he made a comment that 'I could have a
sip of you for Rs 1000'".
At the end of this altercation, Manu
brought out his 0.22 pistol from his pocket, and fired
one shot into the air, and the second straight at
Jessica's head; she eventually died a few hours later at
the Apollo hospital.
The five friends fled immediately.
Manu went into hiding for seven days, conferring with
family, and initially his father apparently said "face
the punishment, what can I do?" However, he subsequently
started helping his son. Manu went underground in a
house indicated by his father in South Delhi, and the
pistol was disposed of (it was never recovered - what
Manu Sharma told about it to the police is not known).
After his surrender, one by one, all the statements by
eyewitnesses, as well as Manu's own confession, were
retracted or were thrown out by the court due to
inadequate legal process.
In the original trial, very few
witnesses would come forward to depose. Eyewitnesses who
initially claimed to have seen the murder, such as Shyan
Munshi, Karan Rajput and Shivdas Yadav, all turned
hostile. Increasingly, revelations in the media have
been piecing together the story of the pressure, bribery
and coercion that led to this reversal.
In July-September 2006, the magazine
Tehelka carried out a three month long sting operation
against these three key witnesses, which was aired in a
leading Hindi News channel, where they traced the nature
of bribes and threats that was used to intimidate the
One of the key witnesses was Karan
Rajput, who was present at the restaurant to borrow
money from his nephew, Jitendra, the manager at the bar.
Rajput who had long been an alcoholic, was asked by his
nephew to sit at a chair which happened to be facing the
bar where Shayan and Jessica were making drinks. After
the murder, Karan initially said he saw a boy in a white
T-shirt come up to the bar and shoot Jessica. However,
in the court testimony, he turned hostile, denying that
he had been there at all.
After the incident Karan Rajput lived
a life of parties and drinking bouts - although he had
no job or other visible means of income. In January
2005, he died of cirrhosis of the liver. The Tehelka
expose revealed that Karan Rajput was a regular visitor
to Venod Sharma's offices in Chandigarh and Okhla, Delhi
where he would collect money. Karan's friend Surendra
told the Tehelka reporter how he would go with him; he
feels that a total figure between Rs. 20 to 35 Lakhs was
Surendra: I saw him receiving
money at Okhla.
Question: Where at Okhla?
Surendra: From Sharma’s
place. In front of Okhla depot there is a
building. Sharma owns entire building. We used
to collect money from there itself.
Question: How much money?
Surendra: Whatever we needed.
Question: Whatever you say?
Surendra: Whatever we demand.
We used to get 20-25 thousand every month just
like that. His number is in mamu’s ( Karan
Question: Would you accompany
Rajput when he used to go to collect money ?
Question: How would they pay,
cheque or cash?
Question: How much money
Surendra: They gave twice in
Question: When you would go
to Okhla was the amount fixed?
Surendra: Later they fixed it
at 20 thousand. Initially he would get 60
thousand, sometime up to one or two lakh. Sharma
had taken his (Karan Rajput) life’s entire
Another witness, the electrician
Shivdas Yadav, was standing behind the bar when the
murder occurred. In his initial statement, subsequently
retracted, he also claimed to have witnessed the murder
by Manu. At some point before the trial, Shivdas
suddenly came into some money with which he opened an
electrician's business in Uttar Pradesh. Recently, when
a journalist from Tehelka called Shivdas posing to be
Jessica Lall's grieving sister, Shivdas accepted that
his initial confession, and that of the others, were all
true, and that he was scared of what might happen to him
were he to tell the truth.
A third witness, Shyan Munshi was
right there, serving behind the bar with Jessica. He
comes from an upper class family and it was initially
hoped that he would be a reliable witness. In his
initial statement, recorded with the police as his
signed First Information Report, he said that both shots
were fired by the same person. However, later in court
he said that the document had been written in Hindi and
he did not know Hindi, so he could not tell what he had
signed. He then changed his story to say that Manu had
only fired once, at the ceiling. The second shot, the
one that killed Jessica, was fired by someone else, whom
he could not describe.
Subsequently the media revealed that
he knew Hindi well: he had acted in a number of Hindi-speaking
films. When a reporter posing as a casting director for
a foreign film venture approached him, he discussed
nuances of Hindi grammar: "Like in Hindi word `car’ is
feminine gender while in Bengali it’s neutral gender."
There were indications that the Delhi
Police also may have introduced false forensic evidence,
by switching one of the spent cartridges for another
0.22 one - subsequent tests indicated that the two
cartridges had been fired from different guns. In view
of the fact that the weapon was never recovered, other
police officers questioned why the bullets were sent for
testing at all. It is widely felt that the two-gun
theory was built up with the help of the police, and
based on Shyan Munshi's testimony.
Sharma was acquitted of all charges
in February 2006. Not a single trustworthy witness could
be found, despite the fact that the murder had been
committed in the presence of dozens of people at the bar
of the Tamarind Court Cafe restaurant in Delhi.
All the witnesses who had originally
claimed to have seen Manu Sharma shoot Jessica turned
hostile during the six years of the court case.
In Manu's native city, Chandigarh, no
one was surprised at the acquittal. Until a few days
before the judgment, 29-year-old Manu was seen attending
parties in town, and running his popular disco-cum-pub,
Blue Ice, in the posh Sector 17 market. He has a
reputation for throwing well-organized parties around
town. Shortly after he was released on bail in 2003,
there was a fight between employees of Blue Ice and some
customers; Manu too was reportedly involved, but his
name was dropped from the case and the disco’s manager
was booked instead.
Manu's acquittal caused widespread
outrage. Appeals were sent to the President of India and
other top officials, so that the case could be reopened,
claiming that this was a brazen case of misuse of power
and influence by people in high places. Even in the
venal atmosphere of the criminal justice system in India
where the art of buying/ intimidating/ cajoling
witnesses and bribing investigating policemen is well
known, the circumstances were deemed too shocking.
On March 22, 2006, the Delhi High
Court admitted an appeal by the police against the
Jessica Lal murder acquittals, issuing bailable warrants
against prime accused Manu Sharma and eight others and
restraining them from leaving the country.
The further revelations in the media
rekindled hopes that additional evidence may now be
presented for both the original crime as well as the
cover-up - in terms of cheque payments and other
connections. Also, Venod Sharma's mobile phone number
was found among the numbers listed on Karan Rajput's
mobile; these calls could also be traced.
The prosecution is under considerable
pressure in the court cases. The media pressure is also
telling on the key witnesses, especially Shyan Munshi.
In May 2006, Shyan tried to illegally leave the country
but was arrested at Kolkata airport.
The media exposes, directly linking
Venod Sharma to the key witnesses, led to calls for his
resignation in the Parliament of India, particularly
from the opposition party Indian Lok Dal. On October 6,
2006, Venod Sharma, succumbed to the pressure and
resigned from the Congress ministry in Haryana.
The terms of the high court appeal
was not a re-trial, but merely an appeal that the
previous bench had not considered the evidence already
On December 18, 2006, the High Court
bench of Justice R S Sodhi and Justice P K Bhasin, in a
61-page judgement, held Manu Sharma guilty of murdering
Jessica Lall. The judgement said that the lower court
had been lax in not considering the testimony of
witnesses such as Deepak Bhojwani: "With very great
respect to the learned judge, we point out that this
manner of testing the credibility of the witness is
hardly a rule of appreciation of evidence... Obviously,
this reflects total lack of application of mind and
suggests a hasty approach towards securing a particular
end, namely the acquittal."
In particular, witness Shyan Munshi
came in for serious criticism: he may be facing criminal
proceedings. The judgement says, of his repudiating his
own FIR: "[Munshi] is now claiming is that the said
statement was recorded in Hindi while he had narrated
the whole story in English as he did not know Hindi at
all... We do not find this explanation of Munshi to be
Regarding Munshi's testimony
introducing the two-gun theory, the judgement says: "In
court he has taken a somersault and came out with a
version that there were two gentlemen at the bar counter.
... [W]e have no manner of doubt that on this aspect he
is telling a complete lie... " All 32 witnesses who
turned hostile were summoned to explain why they should
not be tried for perjury.
On December 20, the High Court bench
sentenced Manu Sharma to life imprisonment, and he was
ordered to pay a compensation of Rs 50,000 to Jessica's
family. The court also awarded four-year jail terms to
Vikas Yadav, son of gangster and
former Rajya Sabha MP D. P. Yadav (Vikas is already
in jail as an undertrial in Nitish Katara murder
former Coca Cola General Manager
Amardeep Singh Gill for their role in destroying
Manu Sharma's lawyer, R K Naseem said
the decision would be appealed in Supreme Court, because
the judgement was wrong in holding Bina Ramani to have
been an eyewitness.
was a model in New Delhi who was working
as a celebrity barmaid at a crowded
socialite party when she was shot dead
on April 29, 1999. Dozens of witnesses
pointed to Siddharth Vashisht, a.k.a.
Manu Sharma, the son of Venod Sharma, a
wealthy and powerful Congress politician
in Haryana, as the murderer. The surname
"Lall" is sometimes spelled "Lal" in the
In the ensuing trial
over seven years, inadequacies in the
investigation, shoddy prosecution, and
possible judicial lapses led to Manu
Sharma and a number of others being
acquitted on February 21, 2006.
media and public pressure, the
prosecution appealed (a rare measure)
and the Delhi High Court conducted
proceedings on a fast track with daily
hearings over 25 days. The lower court
judgment was found faulty in law, and
Manu Sharma was found guilty of having
murdered Jessica Lall. He was sentenced
to life on December 20, 2006.
Anatomy of a
very public murder
On April 29, 1999,
leading socialite Bina Ramani organized
a party at her restaurant, Tamarind
Court Cafe, in the Qutub area of
South Delhi - it was to be a farewell
party for her husband Georges Mailhot
who was going abroad for six months.
Several youngsters and models were
serving drinks at the 'Once upon a time'
bar, including Jessica Lall and her
friends Malini Ramani and Shyan Munshi.
At about 0200 hours
when the party was almost over, Manu
Sharma with his friends Amardeep Singh,
Alok Khanna, Amit Jhingan and Vikas
Yadav, allegedly entered the restaurant
and demanded liquor from Jessica. Since
the bar was being closed, Jessica told
Sharma that no more drinks would be
served. After some altercation, Sharma
lost his temper and fired his gun - once
in the air and the second time at
Jessica. The bullet struck her temple
and she died on the spot.
Sharma fled from the
restaurant, leaving his car which was
later moved by his friends. During an
intense hunt for Sharma over a week,
three of his friends were arrested, but
Sharma himself went underground. His
father, Venod Sharma was asked to step
down as Congress Party Chief in the
state. Eventually Manu Sharma
surrendered on May 6 in Chandigarh.
Subsequently the fourth person, Vikas
Yadav, son of D. P. Yadav, another
heavyweight minister from Uttar Pradesh
with mafia connections, also
Manu Sharma gave a
statement to the Police, which was taped,
in which he admits shooting Jessica Lall.
"The idea at that time was to shoot in
challenge. It was embarrassing to hear
that even if I paid a thousand bucks I
would not get a sip of drink." This
audiotape was obtained and aired by the
TV channel NDTV but it does not
constitute legal testimony. Subsequently
however, the confession was retracted,
and a not guilty plea was entered in the
Manu Sharma is the
son of one of the leading politicians in
the state of Haryana, Venod Sharma,
belonging to the Congress Party. Earlier
a minister in the National Cabinet,
Venod Sharma was a minister in the
Haryana government at the time the trial
judgement was announced.
Subsequently, a sting
operation by the newsmagazine Tehelka
exposed how Venod Sharma paid bribes to
win over key witnesses, and Venod Sharma
resigned from the Haryana Ministry on
October 6th 2006,
One of Manu's aunts
is a daughter of erstwhile President of
India, Shankar Dayal Sharma.
The Jessica Lall
murder case went up for trial in August
1999, with Manu charged with murder and
his friends charged of related crimes
such as destroying evidence and
sheltering criminal suspects.
Four of the witnesses
who had initially said they had seen the
murder happen, eventually turned hostile.
Shyan Munshi, a model and friend who was
serving drinks beside Jessica Lall,
changed his story completely; as for
earlier testimony recorded with the
police, he said that the writing was in
Hindi, a language he was not familiar
with, and it should be repudiated. It is
widely speculated that he may be under
threat and that the judicial system is
unable to provide witnesses with
adequate security. Karan Rajput and
Shivdas Yadav also had not seen anything,
while Parikshit Sagar said he had left
the place before the incident. In a
conversation with the sister of Jessica,
Karan Rajput is alleged to have played a
tape-recording discussing with some
friends how Venod Sharma's people have
"won over" several witnesses already.
Also, it appears that
the cartridges used in the murder were
altered. Although the gun was never
recovered, these cartridges were for
some reason sent for Forensic evaluation,
where it turned out that they had been
fired from different weapons. This led
to a further weakening of the
Shyan Munshi (pronounced
"Shayan") is the son of a well known
ophthalmologist in Kolkata, where he
studied at the reputed Don Bosco School.
An aspiring model and ostensibly a
friend of Jessica Lal's, Shyan Munshi
was serving behind the bar with Jessica
when the shooting occurred. In his
initial statement he said unequivocally
that Manu Sharma had fired the gun twice,
once into the air, and once at Jessica.
This testimony was recorded by the
police in their First Information Report
(FIR), which Shayan signed. However,
during the trial he claimed that he did
not know Hindi and that he was not aware
of what he had signed. It later turned
out that he had passed the secondary
school exam with Hindi as a subject, and
had also acted in the Hindi movie,
At the trial, Shyan
said that Manu Sharma had fired only
once, and that also into the air. He
described Manu's clothes carefully.
Subsequently, he said that another
bullet, fired by someone else, was the
one to hit Jessica. About this man's
dress, he was evasive, and saying only
that he was wearing a "light-coloured"
shirt. This led to the "two-gun theory"
- with the forensic report said that the
bullets were fired from different
weapons. It is widely believed that the
forensic reports were also doctored.
acquittal, there was intense pressure on
Shyan Munshi, who was already launched
on a successful modeling career. He was
involved in hosting a cooking show on TV
and other activity.
On May 13, 2006, he
was detained at Calcutta airport as he
was about to board a flight for Bangkok,
along with his wife Piya Rai Chaudhuri.
Subsequently, he faced extensive police
questioning, and may now be facing
charges of perjury, based on evidence
such as his Hindi examination marks and
the fact that he acted in Hindi films.
The high court has
ordered Shyan and other witnesses who
turned hostile in court, to appear
before it to explain why they should not
be prosecuted for perjury.
Malini Ramani, daughter of the party
host Bina Ramani, described the events
At 2 AM after the bar
had closed, Manu Sharma walked in
wearing a white T-shirt and jeans. The
following is from her testimony in court:
Asked by the
prosecutor what happened next, she said,
"He asked for drinks. I told him that
the bar was closed. He said that he
would pay cash. I said it did not matter.
Then he said that he would pay Rs 1000
for a drink. I told him that the bar was
closed. Then he made a comment that "I
could have a sip of you for Rs 1000,"
Malini Ramani told the crowded court.
Could you identify
that man, the prosecutor asked.
"Yes, I can," she
said and pointed to Manu Sharma. "The
man who asked for drinks looked like him,"
"Are you sure?"
"What did you do then?"
"I was irritated by
the comment and left the Tamarind Court
and went towards the courtyard where I
crossed my mother," she said.
"I had hardly gone
out for a minute or two when Shyan ran
towards me screaming Jessica had been
shot. I passed out and fainted. It was
only at 6 in the morning when I came to
know from my mother that Jessica was
dead. I was told this on phone," Ramani
told the court.
In the years that
Manu Sharma has been free on bail, he
has set up the thriving Blue Ice
night spot and disco in Chandigarh.
hearings with nearly a hundred witnesses,
the court passed its order on February
21, 2006. Throughout his 179-page case
verdict, Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ)
S L Bhayana said that police sought to 'create'
and 'introduce false evidence' against
Sharma. The judgment repeatedly hints
that the prosecution may have attempted,
from the very beginning, to fabricate
the evidence and present false witnesses,
so as to render the case indefensible.
In conclusion, he agrees with "the
counsel for the accused that on April
30, 1999 the police had decided to frame
the accused," read the judgment.
The judgment faulted
the police for deciding on the accused
first and then collecting evidence
against him, instead of letting the
evidence lead them to the murderer.
Since the prosecution had failed to
establish guilt beyond doubt, all nine
accused were acquitted.
In the immense uproar
that followed, hundreds of thousands of
people e-mailed and SMS-ed their outrage
on petitions forwarded by media channels
and newspapers to the President and
others seeking remedies for the alleged
miscarriage of justice. A poll conducted
by the newspaper Hindustan Times showed
that on a scale of 1 to 10, the public's
faith in law enforcement in India was
Public pressure built
up with newspapers splashing headlines
such as "No one killed Jessica", and TV
channels running SMS polls. Models,
fashion designers, friends, relatives
and others have held candle-light vigils
at India Gate in New Delhi to protest
the injustice of it all.
Surender Sharma, the
police inspector responsible for the
investigation, was transferred from the
plum Hauz Khas position to a
bureaucratic post. The police have also
launched an inquiry against the possibly
deliberate ineptness of their own
On April 18, 2006,
the a division bench comprising Justice
Manmohan Sareen and Justice J M Malik
released Manu Sharma on Rs 1 Lakh (USD
2000) bail. They also pulled up the
Delhi Police and urged them to ensure
minimal delays in the re-trial process.
Conviction in High Court
On March 25 2006, the
Delhi High Court admitted an appeal by
the police against the Jessica Lall
murder acquittals, issuing bailable
warrants against prime accused Manu
Sharma and eight others and restraining
them from leaving the country. This was
not a re-trial, but merely an appeal
based on evidence already marshalled in
the lower court.
On September 9 2006,
a sting operation by the news magazine
Tehelka was shown on the TV program Star
News, which revealed how the witnesses
had been bribed and coerced into
retracting their initial testimony.
Venod Sharma was named in the expose as
paying millions of rupees to some of the
Facing pressure from
the central Congress leaders (in view of
forthcoming elections in the
neighbouring state of Punjab), Venod
Sharma resigned from the Haryana
On December 15, 2006,
the High Court bench of Justice R S
Sodhi and Justice P K Bhasin, in a 61-page
judgement held Manu Sharma guilty based
on existing evidence.
The judgement said
that the lower court had been lax in not
considering the testimony of witnesses
such as Deepak Bhojwani: "With very
great respect to the learned judge, we
point out that this manner of testing
the credibility of the witness is hardly
a rule of appreciation of evidence...
Obviously, this reflects total lack of
application of mind and suggests a hasty
approach towards securing a particular
end, namely the acquittal."
In particular, the
key witness Shyan Munshi came in for
serious criticism, and may be facing
criminal proceedings. The judgement says,
of his repudiating his own FIR: "[Munshi]
is now claiming that the said statement
was recorded in Hindi while he had
narrated the whole story in English as
he did not know Hindi at all... We do
not find this explanation of Munshi to
be convincing." Regarding Munshi's
testimony about the two-gun theory, the
judgement says: "In court he has taken a
somersault and came out with a version
that there were two gentlemen at the bar
counter. ... [W]e have no manner of
doubt that on this aspect he is telling
a complete lie... "
All 32 witnesses who
turned hostile have been asked to appear
before the court on February 21 to
explain why they should not be tried for
On December 20, Manu
Sharma was awarded life imprisonment.
The other accused, Vikas Yadav and
AmarDeep Singh Gill, were awarded four
years of imprisonment for destroying
Manu Sharma's lawyer,
R K Naseem said the decision would be
appealed in Supreme Court, because the
judgement was wrong in holding Bina
Ramani to have been an eyewitness.
According to a widely
circulated media report, Manu Sharma
told a friend after the trial in Hindi:
mere bhaagya main yehi thaa. taqdeer
kaa faislaa yehi thaa (Such was my
fate. This was decided by destiny).
There was widespread
celebration of Manu's conviction on the
media, where it was seen as evidence
that the people's voice could move the
wheels of justice. Given the past record
in India of cases such as Sanjeev Nanda,
it was felt that the Jessica Lall and
Priyadarshini Mattoo convictions finally
indicated that even the most powerful
were not above the law.
The 2008 film, Halla
Bol, made by Rajkumar Santoshi, is based
around a murder similar to that of
Jessica Lall's in a public bar, and
shows similar public uprising upon the
acquittal of the accused, leading to
their eventual retrial, and sentencing.