New Delhi, Feb. 25: For four years, Delhi police suspected what the whole country now believes: that some officers had rigged the Jessica Lal murder investigation so that the well-connected accused could walk free.
Yet the police didn’t act on the suspicion, put down in black and white by the current Delhi police commissioner, K.K. Paul, in 2002.
Paul, then joint commissioner (crime), had carried out a secret, in-house inquiry into the murder probe that led him to believe there was a “conspiracy between the accused and certain officials”.
He suggested the “two-gun” theory ' the key to the mass acquittals ' could be an attempt at sabotaging the prosecution’s case, and recommended a case be registered for tampering of evidence and forgery. But the police sat on his report.
The prosecution had argued that prime accused Manu Sharma had fired two bullets, one in the air and the other ' fatally ' at Jessica. But a forensic report declared the bullets had been fired from different guns.
This, coupled with the police’s failure to find a single gun, led to the collapse of the case, with the court acquitting all nine accused with harsh words for the shoddy investigation.
In his report, Paul raised an important question: Why were the “empties” (the two empty cartridges) sent for forensic examination when the murder weapon hadn’t been found'
Normally, the gun and cartridges would together be sent to a laboratory to confirm whether the bullets had been fired from the weapon, experts said. Without the gun, there was no point sending the cartridges.
The trial court had pointed out that Surinder Sharma, the investigating officer, was wrongly advised by seniors to send the cartridges to the laboratory.
Paul wasn’t the only one with suspicions. He had begun his inquiry on the orders of the then police commissioner, Ajai Raj Sharma, who had received a note from his deputy commissioner (south), Sudhir Yadav, saying he believed the cartridges had been tampered with.
Asked about this, Sharma said: “It was his (Paul’s) report and he is the commissioner now. It’s up to him to implement his suggestion.”
Sources said the police might now reopen the case.