AUTHOR- PRIYANSHI BHARDWAJ, TRINITY INSTITUTE OF PROFESSIONAL STUDIES.
Citation: (2010) 6 SCC 1
Mr. Sidhartha Vashisht, alias, Manu Sharma vs State (NCT of Delhi) case also famous by the name Jessica Lal murder case was a very high-profile case. This case appears as a strong pillar which proves that “Justice delayed is not always justice denied”
FACTS OF THE CASE-
n Ms. Jessica Lal was a model in New Delhi and was working as a celebrity barkeeper at a restaurant called “Once upon a time” also known as “Tamarind cafe” which was an unlicensed bar.
n The liquor was being served by Ms. Jessica Lal till the time she deceased.
n On the night intervening April 29, 1999, a 'Thursday party' was going on at Qutub Colonnade at the restaurant "Once upon a time" also called as "Tamarind cafe" at about 02:00 hours, Sidhartha Vashishth, (son of former Union Minister Venod Sharma of the Congress party), was in a white T-shirt, came with his friends and asked for two drinks.
n But the waiter refused to offer him liquor because the party was over, although Manu Sharma was ready to offer Rs.1000 she denied.
n Jessica and Beena Ramani (who was present there), tried to make him understand that the party was over and there was no liquor available with them.
n On refusal of serving the liquor, Manu Sharma took the pistol out of his trouser and fired one at the roof and another at Jessica Lal which hit her near her left eye as a result she fell.
n Beena Ramani who was present there stopped Manu and questioned his actions, also, she demanded him to put the pistol there, but he refused to do so and he fled the scene along with his two friends, Mr. Alok Khanna and Mr. Gill.
n Ms. Jessica Lal was rushed to the Ashlok Hospital from where she was shifted to the Apollo Hospital. On April 30, 1999, in the early morning hours, Ms. Jessica Lal was declared brought dead at Apollo Hospital.
n On reaching the spot, it was found that the injured had been moved to Ashlok Hospital and the floor of the restaurant was found to be wet.
n Sub Inspector Sunil Kumar then left Sub Inspector Sharad Kumar at the spot to guard the same and proceeded to Ashlok Hospital along with Constable Subhash.
n The SHO Police Station Mehrauli, Inspector S.K. Sharma along with his team also left the Police Station and reached the spot and deputed one Home Guard Shravan Kumar at the entrance of `Qutub Colonnade' to guard the vehicles.
n On reaching the Ashlok Hospital, they met Beena Ramani, who is the owner of the restaurant, and enquired about the incident but she redirected him to speak with one Shyan Munshi since he was inside the restaurant during the time of incident and was aware of everything.
n The authorities recorded the statement of Mr. Munshi and made an endorsement on the same for the registration of the case under Section 307 IPC and handed over it to Constable Subhash to be carried to the Police Station, Mehrauli.
n When the Sub Inspector Sunil Kumar came back to the spot along with Shyan Munshi, Home Guard Shravan Kumar informed them about the lifting of one black Tata Safari from the spot.
ISSUE OF THE CASE-
n Manu Sharma asked for drinks at midnight and it was against the rule to offer drinks at that time.
n Jessica who was a celebrity barkeeper was diligently doing her duty because of which she refused to offer him drinks, and even he bribed her to give Rs.1000.
n There was a verbal fight between Manu Sharma and Jessica Lal at the restaurant "Once upon a time" also called "Tamarind cafe" which was an unlicensed bar.
n He carried a pistol with himself and tried to assault Jessica by his first bullet and was guilty of murder by firing it into the left eye of Jessica.
n Criminal conspiracy was done by Vikas Yadav by harboring Manu into his house.
n Manu tried to change the case in his favor so he was involved in the destruction of the evidence.
n Two prosecution witnesses told the court last week that they had issued an arms license and sold ammunition to Sharma.
In the totality of circumstances adduced from material on record, the judgment under challenge appears to us to be an immature assessment of material on record which is self-contradictory, based on a misreading of material and unsustainable. We find that Beena Ramani has identified Sidhartha Vashisht @ Manu Sharma, Amardeep Singh Gil, Alok Khanna, and Vikas Yadav to be the persons present at the Tamarind Cafe at the time of the incidence. She also saw Manu Sharma firing the fatal shot which hit Jessica Lal. Her testimony finds corroboration from the testimony of Malini Ramani and George Mailhot.
The Delhi police indicted Manu Sharma, Vikas Yadav, and ten others in the Jessica Lal murder case. The charge sheet was filed in the Court of Metropolitan Magistrate V K Khanna. The main accused, Siddharth Vashisht alias Manu Sharma, was charged under sections 302 (murder), 201 (destruction of evidence), 120(b) (criminal conspiracy) and 212 (harboring suspects) of the Indian Penal Code and sections 27, 54 and 59 of the Arms Act. The others accused are members of Parliament D P Yadav's son Vikas, Coca-Cola Company officials Alok Khanna and Amardeep Singh Gill, Shyam Sunder Sharma, Amit Jhingan, Yograj Singh, Harvinder Chopra, Vikas Gill, Raja Chopra, Ravinder Krishan Sudan, and Dhanraj. They have all been charged under sections 120(b), 302, 201 and 212 of the IPC. The case against Raja Chopra is that he provided a conveyance to Sidhartha Vashisht @ Manu Sharma within the meaning of Section 52A IPC to screen him from legal punishment. From the material on record, we find no admissible evidence to substantiate the charge against this accused. Consequently, we uphold his acquittal under Section 212 IPC and dismiss the appeal qua Raja Chopra.
The whole case was based on circumstantial evidence which was formed by the facts of the case. Sidharth Vashisht @ Manu Sharma in anger fired a bullet over Jessica and just to defend himself he tried to remove all the proofs against himself, which has resulted in him being called the cold-blooded murderer. Following intense media and public pressure, the prosecution appealed and the high court conducted proceedings on the fast track courts and daily hearings conducted over 25 days. He was sentenced for lifetime imprisonment on 20th December 2006. in the last two years, Manu Sharma had been shifted to an open jail on account of "good conduct"; and was allowed to leave the prison at 8 am and return at 6 pm. On 6, June 2020 Manu Sharma was released from Tihar jail by Delhi LG on the grounds of good behavior. Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal approved the premature release of Manu Sharma, who is serving a life sentence in a case, according to an official order.
The Delhi Sentence Review Board (SRB) recommended releasing 43-year old Manu Sharma who spent 17years of his life in jail, had been out on parole as part of measures taken by prisons across the country to prevent crowding in the corona-virus crisis.
But after being imprisoned for too long i.e. for 16 years, 11 months and 24 days he has reformed into a good human being.
Jessica Lal murder case is the high-profile case where many and many of high society people were involved. Jessica would have never been killed if Sidharth @ Manu had a control over his anger, also being a son of a politician, he had no fear of being caught and if so, he did not fear of being into the jail for this long. This was the case that was tried to be window dressed and due to which Jessica might have not get any justice if media would not be in support of her. Media gave this case a whole new direction which has resulted in the lifetime imprisonment of Manu Sharma. That feeling of guilt which Manu has felt after looking into the eyes of his family that they have suffered a lot just because of him, also Venod Sharma after this incident has to resign from his position of the party, has now reformed Manu Sharma into the whole new personality. The Jessica Lal movement stands as an example, a case study for certain global trends in our present age. The fascinating part of studying such a phenomenon is finding those trends, and when the worlds of academic thought and global application begin to merge, marveling in how multifaceted they become. Hence this case appears as a strong pillar which shows that “Justice delayed is not always, Justice denied”.