The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Reopening of Jessica case gets a push

New Delhi, Feb. 27: After keeping silent for five days, the Congress leadership mounted a damage control effort by demanding a retrial in the Jessica Lal murder case as the government too moved in that direction amid an eruption of public outrage.

The home ministry and Delhi police indicated a retrial was not far off. Delhi’s joint commissioner of police Ranjit Narayan said: “We are studying the grounds for an appeal.”

Home minister Shivraj Patil said in Parliament: “According to the present law, no person should be tried twice in any case. But the Supreme Court has ordered (fresh) investigation in some cases. So it has become a law for us and we can follow it.”

A hint that the momentum for action had come from 10 Janpath was available in parliamentary affairs minister Priya Ranjan Das Munshi’s statement in the Lok Sabha. “When Jessica’s murder took place, our party president Sonia Gandhi expressed deep concern,” he said.

While the substantive portion of the damage control was in evidence in Parliament and in the police statement, a parallel exercise by the party got under way through spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi.

He demanded a retrial after continued protests against subversion of justice from the public and an outcry in both Houses of Parliament.

By voicing the demand, the party is suggesting that the leadership will not protect Manu Sharma, the key accused who is the son of Vinod Sharma ' a minister in the Congress-led Haryana ministry ' because of his political connection. Such a position it would not have taken without Sonia’s sanction.

The Sharma family was not taking calls at their Chandigarh residence. “Sahab (Vinod) ghar mein nahin hai (He is not at home). Don’t know where he has gone and when he will return,” said the man who took the call. He said no one else was at home either.

Congress sources close to the family said Sharma would first try and ensure he was not forced to quit by the high command. At the moment, the chances of his being dropped are thin for political considerations, but he is likely to be asked to distance himself from his son.

Delhi police commissioner K.K. Paul met home secretary V.K. Duggal today. Sources said the ministry had asked the police to ascertain if a fresh appeal could be filed in the high court to reopen the case. They said a decision in principle had been taken to file an appeal.

“Whatever is possible as per law to see that justice should be done will be done,” Patil said.

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