Jessica case: HC orders perjury prosecution of actor, expert

New Delhi: Bollywood actor Shyan Munshi and a ballistic expert were on Wednesday slapped with perjury charges by the Delhi High Court which ordered their prosecution for going back on their statements in the trial of the sensational Jessica Lall murder case.

The court also asked the Delhi government to put in place a witness protection policy within ten weeks.

Munshi, who was serving liquor alongside former slain model Lall on the intervening night of 29-30, April, 1999, in a party at Qutub Colonnade, had lodged the FIR and later allegedly retracted from it during the trial saying he did not know Hindi.

Ballistic expert Prem Sagar Manocha is accused of introducing two-weapon theory in the case. Both will face the perjury prosecution, entailing maximum seven years jail term, as the bench of justices S Ravindra Bhat and G P Mittal asked the High Court Registrar to file a complaint in a lower court.

"Crl. M.A 1898/2007 (of Munshi) and Crl. M.A 1925/2007 (of Manocha) are hereby disposed of with a direction to the Registrar General of this Court to file a complaint before the competent court having jurisdiction to consider and take action under Section 340 CrPC against the respondents in the above applications," the court, in its 103-page verdict, said.

"All rights and contentions of such individuals to defend themselves are expressly kept open; it is expressly stated that nothing mentioned in this judgment shall be reflective of the merits of the matter," the bench, which had reserved its judgement over two years ago, said.

It, however, absolved 17 other witness that included socialite Andleeb Sehgal, ballistic experts Roop Singh, electrician Shiv Shankar Dass and eyewitness Jagannath Jha, saying most of them "had not resiled from their sworn testimonies".

The court gave a slew of directions on ensuring safety of vulnerable witnesses in criminal cases and said they "shall bind and govern the Government of NCT of Delhi, till it is replaced by suitable legislation."

"The Govt of NCT shall immediately and in any event within ten weeks from today, issue a Witness Protection Policy which shall provide the principles and guidelines that the Police, the prosecution and executive agencies shall follow.

"The guidelines shall incorporate the material elements indicated in the various reports of the Law Commission, court directions, and any other recommendations of any official committee in that regard," one of the directions said.