Thursday, May 17, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Jessica case: key witness turns hostile
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, MAY 16
Hopes of the prosecution getting the prime accused Siddharth Vashist alias Manu Sharma, son of former Union Minister, Mr Venod Sharma, convicted in the Jessica Lal murder case came tumbling down today with the third and the last eyewitness in the case turning hostile.

The eyewitness, Karan Rajput, rejected the police version of the case that he was in the bar of the Tamarind Court restaurant in Qutub Colonade, when Jessica Lal was shot or he had seen the accused.

Deposing before the Additional Sessions Judge, Mr H.R. Malhotra, the eyewitness said “On April 29, 1999 (the day of the incident) I was not in Delhi, but in Dasuya, Punjab. I had not gone to Qutub Colonade, and hence I did not see Jessica Lal being shot.”

He also denied having identified the photographs of the accused persons shown to him by the police.

The eyewitness also denied the prosecution’s allegation that the accused persons had given him lot of money to depose in their favour.

Rajput, who was reportedly sitting in the bar when the shooting took place, had told the police under Section 161 of CrPC that Manu Sharma shot at bartender Jessica Lal at Tamarind Court restaurant of Qutub Colonade owned by socialite Bina Ramani on the night of April 29, 1999.

The third eyewitness had reportedly told the police that he had come down from Allahabad to visit his relative on April 29, 1999, who was a supervisor at Tamarind Court.

The prosecution case now rests on the circumstantial evidence as all three eyewitnesses have turned hostile.

The prime accused in the case Manu Sharma has been charged with murder (Section 302 of the IPC) and criminal conspiracy (Section 120-B of the IPC).

The first eyewitness Shyan Munshi, who was doing part-time job in the restaurant, in his evidence said “I don’t recognise the man who shot Jessica Lal.... it is incorrect to suggest that the accused Manu Sharma is the same person....he was much taller.”

The second eyewitness Shivdas Yadav, an electrician, told the court that “I followed Bina Ramani inside the cafe....I saw Jessica Lal lying hurt on the floor.”

The court would record the evidence of socialite and fashion designer Malini Ramani in July.

Meanwhile, the prosecution today moved an application seeking the remand of Vikas Yadav, son of Mr D.P. Yadav, MP from Uttar Pradesh, as his interim bail has come to an end.

Granting interim bail to Vikas Yadav, ASJ G.P. Theraja in his order had stated that the accused should apply for bail one week prior to the examination of the witnesses in the case.

The prosecution counsel, Mr S.K. Saxena, urged the court to remand Vikas Yadav in judicial custody as his interim bail had expired. The application would be heard tomorrow.

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