56. 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 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.
There is evidence on record to show that Manu Sharma had a licensed pistol of .22 bore which he has not produced to establish his innocence and on the contrary has taken false plea that the pistol, its ammunition and licence had been removed by the Police on 30.4.1999. We also find from the material on record that Manu Sharma abandoned his vehicle while making good his escape. We also find that the ammunition used in the causing of the firearm injury to Jessica Lal was of .22 bore which Manu Sharma admittedly possessed and a similar live cartridge was recovered from the abandoned Tata Safari. From this, we have no hesitation in holding that Manu Sharma is guilty of an offence under Section 302 IPC for having committed the murder of Jessica Lal on 29/30.4.1999 at the Tamarind Cafe as also under Section 27 Arms Act.
57. Coming to the case put up by the Prosecution as regards Vikas Yadav and Amardeep Singh Gill, we have noted above that both these accused were present at the Tamarind Cafe when Manu Sharma caused firearm injuries to Jessica Lal. These two persons subsequently were seen by PW-30 Sharvan Kumar, coming in a white Tata Siera driven by Amardeep Singh Gill from which Vikas Yadav alighted and surreptitiously removed the Tata Safari which was being guarded by Sharvan Kumar. The very fact that Vikas Yadav removed the Tata Safari from Qutub Colonnade is sufficient to bring home his guilt under Section 201 IPC since he and Amardeep Singh Gill both knowing that an offence has been committed at the Tamarind Cafe by Manu Sharma caused the Tata Safari, which is part of the evidence, to be removed with an intention to screening Manu Sharma.
From these circumstances it is evident that the Tata Safari was removed from outside Qutub Colonnade pursuant to a conspiracy between Vikas Yadav, Amardeep Singh Gill and Manu Sharma. Therefore, these three accused are guilty of having conspired to remove the Tata Safari from Qutub Colonnade and are held guilty under Section 201 read with Section 120-B IPC.
58. As regards Shyam Sunder Sharma, he was charged for an offence under Section 212 IPC for harbouring Ravinder Krishan Sudan. We find there is no incriminating evidence to suggest that Shyam Sunder Sharma ever harboured Ravinder Krishan Sudan. Even otherwise, Ravinder Krishan Sudan has been declared a Proclaimed Offender and has not faced trial. This charge against Shyam Sunder Sharma cannot be sustained. Consequently we uphold his acquittal under Section 212 IPC as also 201 IPC and dismiss the appeal qua Shyam Sunder Sharma due to lack of evidence.
59. The case against Harvinder Chopra is that he arranged for the stay of Sidhartha Vashisht @ Manu Sharma at the house of PW-52, Chander Prakash Chopra, thereby committing an offence under Section 212 IPC. From the material on record, we find there is no evidence to suggest that Harvinder Chopra arranged for stay of Manu Sharma at the house of PW-52, Chander Prakash Chopra. Chander Prakash Chopra himself has not supported the Prosecution's case. We, therefore, find no evidence to convict Harvinder Chopra of the offence under Section 212 IPC. Consequently we uphold his acquittal under Section 212 IPC and dismiss the appeal qua Harvinder Chopra.
60. The case against Yog Raj Singh is that he facilitated Sidhartha Vashisht @ Manu Sharma being taken to Khera, Muktsar in Punjab and harboured Sidhartha Vashisht @ Manu Sharma. To substantiate this case, the Prosecution examined PW-53, PW-64 and PW-65. We find that none of these witnesses have supported the Prosecution's case and there is no other evidence on record which suggests that Yog Raj Singh is guilty of harbouring Sidhartha Vashisht @ Manu Sharma at Khera in Muktsar (Punjab). Consequently we uphold his acquittal under Section 212 IPC and dismiss the appeal qua Yog Raj Singh.
61. The case against Vikas Gill was that he was charged for escorting Sidhartha Vashisht @ Manu Sharma to Panchkula between 30.4.1999 and 1.5.1999 and harboured him with the intention to screening him from legal punishment. We find from the record that there is no evidence to the effect that Vikas Gill took Sidhartha Vashisht @ Manu Sharma to Panchkula from Delhi and/or harboured him at any place. Consequently we uphold his acquittal under Section 212 IPC and dismiss the appeal qua Vikas Gill.
62. The case against Raja Chopra is that he provided a conveyance to Sidhartha Vashisht @ Manu Sharma within the meaning of Section 52A IPC in order 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.
63. As regards the case against Alok Khanna, he was charged under Section 120-B read with Section 201 IPC for causing disappearance of Tata Safari from Qutub Colonnade. We find there is no evidence to link Alok Khanna with the conspiracy to remove or destroy evidence. No doubt, his car was used by Amardeep Singh Gill and Vikas Yadav to go to Qutub Colonnade to remove the Tata Safari, but this in itself is not sufficient to hold that Alok Khanna consented to or was a part of the conspiracy shared by Amardeep Singh Gill with Vikas Yadav to remove the Tata Safari from the Qutub Colonnade. In that view of the matter, we find that the Prosecution has not been able to bring home its case against Alok Khanna, The appeal qua Alok Khanna is dismissed.
64. We may also note here that Ravinder Krishan Sudan and Dhanraj were declared Proclaimed Offender by the trial court. Their case is not before us.
65. In the above analysis, while holding Sidhartha
Vashisht @ Manu Sharma guilty under Section 302 IPC for the murder of Jessica
Lal as also under Section 27 Arms Act and Section 201/120B IPC, we also hold
Amardeep Singh Gill and Vikas Yadav guilty for the offence punishable under
Section 201 IPC/120-B IPC while upholding the acquittal of the remaining
respondents of the offences charged against them. Accused Siddharth Vashisht @
Manu Sharma, Vikas Yadav and Amardeep Singh Gill be taken into custody forthwith
and lodged in Central Jail, Tihar. The appeal is disposed of in the above terms.
December 18, 2006
For in-depth, objective and more importantly balanced journalism, Click here to subscribe to Outlook Magazine