New Delhi, March 22: Delhi High Court today admitted an appeal by police against the Jessica Lal murder mass acquittals, breathing life into the fight for justice for the model.
The court issued bailable warrants against prime accused Manu Sharma and eight others and also restrained them from leaving the country.
The judges also set a surety of Rs 1 lakh for Sharma and Rs 50,000 for the others. They have been directed to appear before the court on April 18.
A groundswell of public outrage against the acquittals had forced the hand of the police, who filed an appeal on March 13 challenging the trial court verdict on several grounds.
The appeal claimed the acquittals were based on “mere conjectures, surmises and improper application of mind”.
The warrants were issued after additional solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam and Delhi police standing counsel Mukta Gupta sought non-bailable warrants against those acquitted, saying one had left for the US and others might follow.
The reference was to Ravinder Krishan Sudan who is believed to be carrying the gun with which Jessica was shot in 1999 at a Tamarind Court party where she was playing celebrity barmaid.
Jessica’s sister Sabrina welcomed the high court order as a “positive step”. Their father Ajit Kumar Lal is in a Gurgaon hospital after a brain haemorrhage.
“It’s a very positive step that the high court has taken. I was very scared that the accused may leave the country. That fear is not there any more,” Sabrina said.
After the hearing, Delhi police commissioner K.K. Paul said: “We had appealed to the court that non-bailable warrants should be issued against the accused. However, the court has granted bailable warrants.”
The appeal argued that the trial court had committed a “grave error” by rejecting “highly relevant and material evidence” gathered by the prosecution.
After filing a fresh FIR on evidence tampering, the police had issued lookout notices at airports for Bina Ramani, the owner of Tamarind Court, her daughter Malini and others who could be required for fresh questioning.
The findings in this case, which will probe allegations of criminal conspiracy between the police and the accused, could prove vital for the appeal in the high court.
Apart from Manu, the other accused include Vikas Yadav, son of former Rajya Sabha MP D.P. Yadav; Amardeep Singh Gill and Alok Khanna, both senior officials in a soft drink company; Shyam Sunder Sharma, the son-in-law of former President S.D. Sharma; Harvinder Chopra; Vikas Gill; Raja Chopra and former cricketer Yograj Singh.
Two others, Ravinder Krishan Sudan and Dhanraj, have been declared proclaimed offenders by the court.