|The Supreme Court today upheld the life sentence given by the Delhi High Court to Manu Sharma for the murder of model and socialite Jessica Lall. Manu Sharma had shot Jessica in a South Delhi restaurant on April 29, 1999 for allegedly refusing to serve him a drink. A two judge bench of the Supreme Court consisting of Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Swatanter Kumar upholding the verdict of the High Court said “The prosecution has proved beyond reasonable doubt the presence of Manu Sharma at the site of the offence” and that the reasons set out in the High Court order were adequate and cogent for the reversal of the decision of the Trial Court.Appearing before the Supreme Court for the accused was lawyer Ram Jethmalani who had faced considerable flak for taking up the case. Ram Jethmalani who has over the years appeared in many controversial cases, firmly defended himself in an interview with Karan Thapar saying that he had an obligation to defend a person against an undeserved, vicious onslaught by the media, which is subverting criminal justice and the whole criminal justice process.The Solicitor General of India Gopal Subramaniam appeared for the Government, clearly an attempt by the Government to show that it was serious in ensuring that the accused is convicted.
This case struck a chord with the middle class section of the Indian society and snowballed into a justice movement for the cases of Priyadarshini Mattoo and Nitish Katara, who were seen as victims of the rich and powerful. The Supreme Court criticised the media for its reporting of the case and had earlier also stated that trial by media is a dangerous trend, though the apex court went on to make it clear that the media’s role in this case did not cause any prejudice against the accused.
Earlier at the trial stage, the Additional Sessions Judge S.L. Bhayanain had acquitted Manu Sharma on the grounds that the “Prosecution was unable to prove the offence beyond reasonable doubt”.The acquittal had caused national outrage and media uproar and also resulted in public protests. The Delhi High Court had admitted an appeal filed by the Delhi Police in March 2006 and in December 2006 a two judge bench consisting of Justice R.S. Sodhi and Justice P.K .Bhasin reversed the decision of the Trial Court and held Manu Sharma guilty of murder and sentenced him to imprisonment for life. An appeal was filed before the Supreme Court citing errors in the judgment.
While the appeal was pending before the Supreme Court, Sharma’s controversial parole was the source of great discussion among the legal community.
Today, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the High Court. Speaking to the media the victim’s sister Sabrina Lall said “The final door has been closed on this episode. It has given a lot of relief and satisfaction. I am happy