The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Heat of passion saves Manu from hangman’s noose
4 years
Life term
4 years

New Delhi, Dec. 20: Manu Sharma today heaved a sigh of relief loud enough for all in the packed, silent courtroom to hear as Delhi High Court handed him a life term for murdering model Jessica Lal.

Looking stoic and calm, the son of former Union minister Vinod Sharma, however, stole a quick glance at Vikas Yadav and Amardeep Singh Gill, who were both given four years in jail.

Mera bhagya mein yehi tha. Taqdeer ka faisla yehi tha (This was in my fate. This was decided by destiny),” he muttered soon after the sentence was delivered.

The bench of Justices R.S. Sodhi and P.K. Bhasin rejected the prosecution demand to give Sharma death, saying the crime was committed in the heat of passion and though it was “intentional”, it was not “premeditated”.

“Though the case has shaken the conscience of society, yet it cannot be held that the convict deserved maximum punishment. We feel justice will be satisfied under the law if the convict will be sentenced to life imprisonment.

“There is nothing on record (to show) that the offence falls under the rarest of rare category,” the court said.

Sharma has been given four years for destruction of evidence and criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code and another four under the arms act for illegally transferring cartridges with the intention of hiding them.

Both these sentences will run concurrently with the life term. He has also been asked to pay Rs 50,000 in compensation to Jessica’s family.

Jessica’s sister Sabrina, who has always maintained that she wanted “conviction but not death” for Sharma, expressed satisfaction at the sentence.

“I really could not ask God for more. All this has come as a great relief to me after all these years,” she said.

“I don’t believe in capital punishment. I am happy that it is life imprisonment because it is the accused who should suffer and not his family members.”

Sharma’s lawyer said they would appeal against his conviction in the Supreme Court. Sharma is not having a happy time in Tihar jail, where he was yesterday not given extra rotis when he asked for them.

Yadav, prime accused in the Nitish Katara murder, and Gill, a middle-level management officer with Coca-Cola India, have been asked to give Rs 3,000 each to Jessica’s family. Both were with Sharma at the time of the murder.

“Gill is no longer in the services of the company,” a spokesperson for Coke said. Gill is believed to have resigned before the verdict.

Socialite Bina Ramani, at whose Tamarind Court restaurant Jessica was shot and whose statement proved vital in overturning Sharma’s acquittal by a trial court, said it had been worthwhile to tell the truth.

“People in Manu Sharma’s house must be grieving. I am a mother, too, but I want to say that God is watching.”

Her fashion designer-daughter Malini said: “I am happy for Sabrina and I am sure she must be relieved…. I hope people with power will think twice before doing anything like this.”

The sentencing sets the stage for the verdict on the reports filed by the special investigation team, set up after accusations of police mishandling of evidence surfaced following the February acquittals.

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