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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 February 2006, 18:47 GMT
Delhi murder verdict 'shameful'
By Nagendar Sharma
BBC News, Delhi

Jessica Lal
Eyewitnesses said Ms Lal was shot for refusing to serve a drink
Indian legal experts have questioned a Delhi court judgement that acquitted all the accused in the 1999 murder of a well-known model in Delhi.

Jessica Lal was shot dead in April, 1999 in the Tamarind Court restaurant, owned by the socialite Bina Ramani.

Manu Sharma, son of a Congress party leader and minister in Haryana state, Vinod Sharma, was the main accused in the case along with eight others.

On Tuesday the court acquitted all nine citing insufficient evidence.

Eyewitnesses at the time alleged that Lal was shot dead by Manu Sharma after she refused to serve him a drink.

The eyewitnesses later retracted their statements and the judge said the case presented by the prosecution had several loopholes.

'Shameful'

Expressing surprise at the judgement, former chief justice of India, VN Khare, said, "victims and their families should have the right to appeal against the lower court judgement. Presently this right is with the state, meaning the prosecution.

If there could be a crystal clear case of murder where direct evidence was available, it was this case
Nitya Ramakrishnan, Supreme Court lawyer

"Those who could not investigate the case properly, cannot be expected to take corrective measures at a later stage," VN Khare said.

The charge sheet that the Delhi police originally submitted to the court said there were many people in the restaurant at the time of shooting.

A former commissioner of the Delhi police, MB Kaushal, says an inquiry into the case is needed.

"When a murder took place in a public place, it is a matter of shame for the police as well as the prosecution that all the accused have walked free.

"Police should have been alert against the use of money and muscle power in the case. The commissioner should immediately order an inquiry into the lapses."

'Delay of justice'

Supreme Court lawyer Nitya Ramakrishnan says that Jessica Lal's case highlights glaring inefficiencies of both the police and the prosecution machinery.

A suspected accomplice being led away by police
All the nine accused in the murder case have been acquitted

"If there could be a crystal clear case of murder where direct evidence was available, it was this case.

"Jessica dies of gunshots, a person was seen fleeing from the spot in full public view. Now if the forensic laboratory in its report says that these bullets did not match those with which the crime was committed, then why blame the judiciary.

"It is a clear case of prosecution connivance with the accused. An inquiry should be ordered into the lapses to restore public faith in investigative agencies" she said.

Both Ms Ramakrishnan and Mr Kaushal also blame the delay in deciding cases as another major hurdle in delivering justice to the victims' families - especially in criminal cases.




SEE ALSO:
Nine acquitted over model murder
21 Feb 06 |  South Asia
Indian held in murder scandal
06 May 99 |  South Asia


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