The court dismissed the perjury charge against 17 of the 19 prosecution witnesses. It ordered the prosecution of only Munshi and Manocha.

In a path-breaking judgment, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday ordered prosecution of two witnesses — Bollywood actor Shayan Munshi and ballistic expert P.S. Manocha — for perjury for allegedly resiling from their earlier stands as prosecution witnesses in the sensational Jessica Lal murder case of 1999.

A Division Bench of Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice G.P. Mittal ordered their prosecution on a suo motu petition.

While setting aside the lower court judgment acquitting Manu Sharma in the case and sentencing him to life imprisonment in 2006, the court had suo motu issued notices to as many as 32 prosecution witnesses asking them to explain why they should not be prosecuted for perjury for turning hostile in the trial of the case.

However, during the course of hearing of the matter, the court had discharged several of these witnesses. Finally, the court decided to weigh the evidence against 19 of the remaining witnesses as to whether they could be prosecuted for the offence of perjury.

The court dismissed the perjury charge against 17 of the 19 prosecution witnesses. It ordered the prosecution of only Munshi and Manocha.

Counsel for Shayan Munshi and P.S. Manocha had in their replies to the Court notices argued that they could not be prosecuted for giving evidence in the trial contrary to what they had earlier told to the police during the investigation.

Shayan Munshi argued that that there could be no scope for action under Section 340 (perjury) of the Criminal Procedure Code against him because he did not make any statement on oath that he contradicted or resiled from.

His counsel submitted that a contradiction between the statement made under Section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code and the deposition in a court could not be the basis for prosecution for perjury in the absence of any adverse comment or finding. However, the Bench dismissed his arguments saying that “…the court is of [the] opinion that action under Section 340 of Cr. PC is prima facie warranted against this respondent, i.e. PW-2 Shayan Munshi.’’

The Bench later directed the Registrar General of the High Court to file a complaint before the competent court having jurisdiction to consider and take action under Section 340 of the Code against the respondents (Shayan Munshi and Prem Sagar Manocha).