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SC Commences Hearing In Jessica Lall Murder Case

PTI 19 Jan 2010, 21:06:44 IST

The Supreme Court on Tuesday  commenced the hearing on an appeal filed by Manu Sharma challenging his conviction and life sentence in Jessica Lall murder case with his counsel alleging the Delhi High Court Bench had made up its mind to hold him guilty. 

Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, appearing for Sharma, said the High Court Bench headed by Justice R S Sodhi (since retired) had declined his plea to recuse itself from hearing the appeal against his acquittal after media started negative publicity and linking him with the judge. 

Narrating the sequence of events for which he wanted the Bench of Justice Sodhi to recuse itself from hearing the matter, he alleged that from everyday hearing it was clear that the HC Bench was going to reverse the decision of the trial court acquitting Sharma. 

"Justice Sodhi and his Bench had made up its mind that he (Sharma) has to go (to jail). From everyday hearing, it was clear that he (Justice Sodhi) had made up his mind," he told an apex court Bench comprising Justices P Sathasivam and Swatanter Kumar. 

The prosecution had alleged Lall was shot dead by Manu Sharma at the Tamarind Court Cafe restaurant owned by socialite Bina Ramani at Qutub Colonade in South Delhi on the intervening night of April 29-30, 1999, where she had hosted a party for her Canadian husband George Mailhot who was leaving the country. 

Jethmalani said that before the hearing of the appeal, a national daily came out with "negative" publicity publishing the accounts of some witnesses and even went to the extent of suggesting that "I have something to do with Justice Sodhi".

The senior advocate said disturbed over such scurrilous attack he wanted the Bench to recuse itself from hearing the appeal but the judges refused and later much stronger ground for judges' recusal came when it perused the transcript of the CD purportedly containing the confession of the accused which was not the part of record in the trial court. 

He claimed a CD containing the confession of Sharma was prepared by the prosecution without his knowledge which was not used as evidence by the trial court. 

The CD was part of the document before another Division Bench of the High Court which was suo motu examining what went wrong with the investigation into the case that resulted in the acquittal of all accused including Sharma. 

The Division Bench had sent the matter which it had taken up suo motu to the Bench headed by Justice Sodhi who had opened the seal and after reading the transcript of the CD ordered the Registry to reseal it. He said it was a stronger ground for Justice Sodhi's Bench to recuse itself from hearing the matter.   "It was the duty of Justice Sodhi not to deal with this matter," Jethmalani said. PTI