Staff Reporter

"Police failed to sustain the grounds on which they had built up their case": Court

NEW DELHI: A trial court here on Tuesday acquitted Siddharth Vashisht alias Manu Sharma, son of Haryana's Excise Minister Venod Sharma, and Vishal Yadav, son of former Member of Parliament D. P. Yadav, in the sensational Jessica Lal murder case in which the young ramp model was shot dead at point blank range in socialite Bina Ramani's crowded Tamarind Court restaurant at Mehrauli here in the wee hours of April 30, 1999.

The court also acquitted seven other accused in the case. Manu Sharma was the prime accused charged with murder.

Talking to reporters after pronouncing the judgment, Additional Sessions Judge S. L. Bhayana said: "The court has acquitted them because the Delhi police failed to sustain the grounds on which they had built up their case.''

"The police failed to recover the weapon which was used to fire at Jessica Lal as well as prove their theory that the two cartridges, emptied shells of which were recovered from the spot, were fired from one weapon,'' the Judge added.

The accused acquitted in the case are: Manu Sharma, Vikas Yadav, Manu's uncle Shyam Sundar Sharma, Amardeep Singh Gill and Alok Khanna, both former executives of a multinational soft drinks company, cricketer Yuvraj Singh's father Yograj Singh, Harvinder Chopra, Vikas Gill and Raja Chopra.

There were a total of 12 accused. Two of them, Ravinder Kishan Sudan and Dhanraj, are absconding while the trial court discharged Amit Jhingan at the time of framing of charges.

The Delhi police allegation against Manu Sharma was that he had fired at the ramp model when she refused to serve liquor to him on the plea that the bar had closed for the day.

But the police failed to recover the weapon that, according to them, Manu Sharma had used to fire at her.

In the charge sheet, the police had claimed that the two cartridges were fired from the same weapon, but forensic examination revealed that the cartridges were fired from two different weapons. Mr. Bhayana said the other ground on which the court acquitted the accused was that all three eyewitnesses listed by the police in the charge sheet -- Shiv Lal Yadav, an electrician at Tamarind Court, film actor Shyan Munshi and Karan Rajput, one of the visitors at the restaurant that day -- turned hostile during the trial.

The fourth factor that led to the acquittal of the accused was the police failure to establish a complete chain of the circumstances leading to the incident, the Judge said. The Mehrauli police had charge-sheeted Manu Sharma for murder and Vikas Yadav, Alok Khanna and Amardeep Singh Gill for destroying evidence of the case and conspiracy.

Shyam Sundar Sharma, Yograj Singh, Vikas Gill, Raja Chopra, Harvinder Chopra, Ravinder Kishan Sudan and Dhanraj had been charged with giving shelter to the accused and destroying evidence.

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