Jessica case: HC reserves order on trial of hostile witnesses

New Delhi: The Delhi High court on Wednesday reserved its order on the prosecution of 19 witnesses including model-turned-bollywood actor Shyan Munshi on charge of perjury for turning hostile during the trial of Jessica Lal murder case.

"We reserve the order," a division bench headed by Justice S Ravindra Bhat said after Delhi Police concluded its argument.

Earlier, the High Court had issued suo-moto notice to all the 19 witnesses and had questioned the prosecution as to how all the witnesses took somersault during the trial.

The Bench had made a remark that the incident of "turning hostile" has become an "endemic" but all such persons cannot be painted with same brush.

"How the case of prosecution will move? The incidents of witnesses turning hostile and doctored evidence have become an endemic now. Some fears for his life, some gets tempted and some does not support (the prosecution) for obvious reasons.

Should we go ahead and prosecute all of them?," it had asked.

Lall was shot dead in April 1999 by Manu Sharma, son of Haryana Congress leader Venod Sharma after she refused to serve a drink to him at a late night party at socialite Bina Ramani`s restaurant Tamarind Court here in South Delhi.

The High Court, which reversed trial court`s verdict on December 18, 2006 and awarded life imprisonment to Manu Sharma, later issued notices to the witnesses, asking as to why they should not be prosecuted for the offence of perjury.

Later, ten witnesses were absolved of the charges.

Earlier, Munshi, who had lodged the FIR in the case, pleaded the court not to prosecute him saying "he cannot be termed hostile as even the apex court had used part of his deposition in convicting the accused."

Munshi, the complainant in the case, had disowned the complaint during the trial, saying he did not know Hindi.

The prosecutor pleaded before the court to refer to 19 out of the 31 hostile witnesses, including Munshi, to the magisterial court for their trial on charges of perjury.

The prosecutor had pointed out that out of total 31 witnesses, now only 19 were available for trial as three are dead while the court itself had discharged 10 of them earlier on the ground that there was no major deviation between their statements to the police and later to the court.

The 19 persons, who were facing court proceeding for turning hostile in the case included socialite Andleeb Sehgal, ballistic experts Roop Singh and Prem Sagar, electrician Shiv Shankar Dass and eyewitness Jagannath Jha.

The apex court, while upholding the high court`s ruling in Jessica Lall murder case last April, also endorsed its findings on the issue of perjury.