New Delhi, Dec. 18: “Guilty.”
A wave of hushed whispers coursed through the sea of lawyers, journalists and family of Jessica Lal crammed together in the courtroom, each telling the other there would be no escape for Manu Sharma this time.
Ten months after being acquitted by a trial court for “want of sufficient evidence”, Manu Sharma, son of former Union minister Vinod Sharma, was today convicted by Delhi High Court in the murder of model Jessica Lal.
Socialite Bina Ramani’s statement that she had seen Sharma shooting Jessica in her Tamarind Court restaurant in April 1994 was the clinching factor, Justice R.S. Sodhi said. “He must be arrested forthwith.”
In seconds, the whispers turned into excited babble and then full-throated screams of joy and relief from Jessica’s family. Over the din, television reporters began sending back the day’s breaking news.
The pace was frenzied, much like the frenzy of the public campaign by students, ordinary people and the media against the acquittals earlier this year. And it was these students who received the first vote of thanks from Jessica’s sister Sabrina.
Fighting in vain to hold back her tears, Sabrina called the judgment “a victory of India’s judicial system”.
“I lost my father days after Manu Sharma first got bail. My mother left me soon after his acquittal. I was left all alone. Today, though, I have the whole country with me,” Sabrina told The Telegraph.
Sharma could not be traced immediately after the verdict, but he surrendered around 7 pm at the Qutub institutional area police station, a few hundred metres from Tamarind Court.
He will be kept in Tihar jail till Wednesday, the day his sentence will be announced.
Apart from murder, Sharma has been convicted for criminal conspiracy, destroying evidence and transferring cartridges to others with the intention of hiding them.
Vikas Yadav and Amardeep Singh Gill, who were with Sharma at the time of the murder, have also been convicted. Vikas is already in police custody as he is the main accused in the Nitish Katara murder. Gill has been arrested.
The court, however, upheld the acquittals of five others accused of helping Sharma flee the scene of the crime.