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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 February 2007, 10:04 GMT
Witnesses to model murder quizzed
Jessica Lal
Prosecutors said Ms Lal was shot for refusing to serve a drink
The Delhi High Court has demanded explanations from 26 people who retracted their statements in a notorious 1999 murder case.

Model Jessica Lal was shot dead in a restaurant in the Indian capital.

But a number of eyewitnesses later retracted their statements and a court acquitted those accused of the crime.

Late last year, the high court overturned the acquittals and sent the son of a ruling Congress politician to prison for life for murdering Lal.

The court had held the eyewitnesses guilty of "interfering in the administration of justice".

Twenty six of the 29 living witnesses, including Bollywood actor Shyan Munshi, who retracted their statements appeared in the court on Thursday.

The court issued non-bailable warrants against three people who failed to appear.

The court asked the eyewitnesses to explain within two weeks why they had retracted their statements and to reproduce the copies of the statements made by them to the police and court.


In December, the court convicted Manu Sharma, son of former federal minister Venod Sharma, of shooting Lal dead.

The case was reopened after he and eight others were acquitted in February, prompting a public outcry .

Prosecutors said Manu Sharma fired at Jessica Lal after she refused to serve him a drink at a fashionable restaurant where she was working as a waitress.

Several eyewitnesses came forward to the police, but by the time the case came to trial seven years later key eyewitnesses had retracted their statements.

The trial finally collapsed in February 2006 when the lower court judge said the prosecution's case contained loopholes and there was insufficient evidence to convict.

The acquittals sparked public outrage, with protest rallies and a sustained media campaign launched to demand justice for Lal, who was 34 when she was killed.

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