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Punishing hostile witnesses

The conviction of Manu Sharma and two others by the Delhi High Court in the unprovoked murder of an innocent Delhi model Jessica Lall, even after the acquittal of all the nine accused by the trial court, is a landmark judgement (Editorial, ďJustice at lastĒ, Dec 19).

The main accused, Manu Sharma, deserved death sentence (and not life imprisonment) as he executed the heinous crime in full public view and manipulated the witnesses, through his powerful connections, to turn hostile. The judiciary deserves full appreciation in this respect.

Further, the issuance of show-cause notices by the Bench comprising Justice R.S. Sodhi and Justice P.K. Bhasin, to 32 witnesses who had been declared hostile by the prosecution, to appear in person before the court on February 1, 2007 is a step forward to uphold the dignity of the judiciary. Like Zahira Sheikh in the Best Bakery case, conviction of witnesses from Delhiís elite circle such as Shayan Munshi, Shiv Dass, Andaleeb Sehgal, P.S. Manocha, including some Delhi Police officials, if found guilty, will clear the way for fair trial in other pending cases.

Such rulings, though harsh, do help restore the public faith in the justice delivery system. These will also put a check on the conduct of the rich and the powerful. They cannot play with the lives of the common people and get away scot free after committing the crime. I congratulate the Delhi High Court on handling the Jessica murder case properly.

Prof DALBAR SINGH SIDHU, Ludhiana


 

II

The historic judgement has reposed the common manís faith in the judiciary. By convicting the main accused in the Jessica Lall murder case, the prestige of the judiciary has gone up. The public outcry for a noble cause cannot be ignored for long. The persistent campaign by the media too needs to be applauded.

However, the lower court that acquitted the convicts must be taken to task. Fast track courts should be set up for quicker results. Witnesses should be provided with foolproof security so that they cannot be influenced, threatened or harassed by the accused.

ANITA KATARIA, Patiala

III

I applaud the Delhi High Court for convicting Manu Sharma and two others. It is the High Courtís duty to scrutinise the lower courtís ruling on the conviction or acquittal of the accused for the crime committed.

The judges will have to see the conclusion reached with reference to the evidence and material adduced and produced at the time of trial in the lower court. They have to assess and weigh the merits of the judgement and pass orders according to their own decision.

I am reminded of an example available in G.R. Ellesmieís book, My Thirty- five Years in Punjab. When the writer was the Deputy Commissioner, he tried a murder case in his court and sentenced the accused to life imprisonment.

Later, after he became the Commissioner, he inspected the district and asked for the case file to ensure that the sentence given by him was in commensurate with the facts. After scanning the reasons recorded, he was satisfied with his correct judgement.

RIKHI DAS THAKUR, Palbhu (Kakkar), HP

IV

Bina Ramani, a key witness in the Jessica Lall murder case, has raised a very pertinent issue regarding the witness protection programme in the country. Many a case fails because the key witness(s) either declines to stand in the witness box or turn hostile in the trial court. The fact that the Delhi High Court had to take suo motu action against 32 hostile witnesses in the Jessica Lall case amply justifies the witness protection programme.

The social activists get frustrated after toiling hard to bring a criminal to justice. The accused gets away with the crime for want of credible evidence. The criminal justice system needs an overhaul to make it more effective to deal with the growing challenges being thrown by criminals.

Brig H.S. CHANDEL (retd), Una

HC upholds the rule of law

The conviction of Shibu Soren and Navjot Singh Sidhu indicate that our judicial system is improving. There was a striking similarity in both cases where a manís life was lost, though in Sidhuís case it was a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

However, the way Sidhu was convicted is neither strict nor perfect. Moreover, he is roaming free up to January 31, 2007 due to the court order. Three years is too little a punishment for Sidhu.

Interestingly Sidhu after the judgement said, ďI have lit a lamp in many a stormĒ. He will also remain the BJPís star campaigner for the BJP and the SAD, the party that had appealed against the former BJP MPís acquittal in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. It seems all men in power feel that they are above the rule of law.

BIDYUT KUMAR CHATTERJEE, Faridabad 

 

 


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