On the fateful day of April 29, 1999, Manu Sharma shot dead model Jessica Lal after the 34-year-old refused to serve him liquor at the Tamarind Court restaurant owned by socialite Bina Ramani at Qutub Colonnade in south Delhi’s Mehrauli. When Jessica was rushed to Apollo Hospital, doctors declared her brought dead. Sharma, the son of former Haryana Congress leader Venod Sharma, was handed life imprisonment in the case.
The case continued to hit the headlines long after the murder when Sharma was acquitted by a trial court in February 2006. Following a nationwide public outcry against the incident, the Delhi High Court took up the case through a fast-track trial that ended in his conviction on murder charges.
In May 1999, Delhi Police had recovered Tata Safari belonging to Manu Sharma from Noida in Uttar Pradesh. A few days later, Manu surrendered before a court in Chandigarh, even as 10 other co-accused in the case, including son of UP politician Vikas Yadav, were arrested. After a chargesheet was filed against the accused under various sections of the IPC, a magistrate court committed the case to a sessions court for trial. The sessions court framed charges against nine accused, discharging one Amit Jhingan.
In May 2001, several prosecution witnesses turned hostile one by one. But in July the same year, Malini Ramani, Bina Ramani, George Mailhot, and Surinder Sharma deposed and identified Manu in court.
In December 2006, the Delhi High Court convicted Manu, Vikas Yadav and Amardeep Singh Gill, and acquitted Aloke Khanna, Vikas Gill, Harvinder Singh Chopra, Raja Chopra, Shyam Sunder Sharma and Yograj Singh. The court awarded life imprisonment to Manu Sharma and slapped a fine of Rs 50,000, while it awarded four years’ prison term with Rs 3,000 fine each for co-convicts Amardeep Singh Gill and Vikas Yadav.
Manu Sharma had appealed twice to the Supreme Court in the case, but his pleas were rejected. In April 2010, the apex court upheld conviction and life term for Manu.
Meanwhile, Jessica Lal’s sister Sabrina on Monday said she had forgiven her sister Jessica Lal’s killer Manu Sharma and wouldn’t object to his release from Tihar jail, where he has been serving his life term since 2006. In a letter to the welfare office of Tihar jail, Sabrina mentioned that she had no objection to the release of Siddharth Vashishta alias Manu Sharma as he had spent 15 years in prison.
“In this period, he has been doing good work for charity and helping inmates in jail, which I feel is a reflection of reform,” she reportedly stated in the letter.