Jessica Lall murder: Delhi HC to take a call on Manu Sharma’s pre-mature release

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday refused to grant relief to Siddharth Vashisht, also known as Manu Sharma, the main culprit in the Jessica Lall murder case, directing the Delhi government instead to re-consider his premature release plea in the Sentence Review Board (SRB) meeting in March.

Manu Sharma, son of former Union Minister Venod Sharma, was sentenced to life for killing Jessica Lall in 1999.

The trial court had acquitted him, but the High Court reversed the verdict and convicted him while the Supreme Court upheld the life sentence in April 2010.

Justice Najmi Waziri while disposing of the plea, granted liberty to Manu Sharma to file an application after the SRB decides the issue in its March meeting.

Delhi government’s Standing Counsel Rahul Mehra told the court that the SRB quarterly conducts a review meeting on premature release of the convicts and the next meeting would be held in March.

He assured the court that it will consider Sharma’s plea in the next meeting.

The court was hearing the plea filed by Manu Sharma through advocate Amit Sahni.

Sharma has sought setting aside of government order dated December 7, 2018, which has upheld recommendation rejecting his plea seeking pre-mature release.

On October 4, 2018, the SRB had recommended rejecting Manu Sharma’s plea.

Sharma told the court that on December 21, another bench of the Delhi High Court ordered to release former Youth Congress leader Sushil Kumar Sharma, who is serving a life term in the 1995 murder of his wife Naina Sahni, while quashing Sentence Review Board order rejecting his pre-mature release.

In his plea, Manu Sharma said that all the reports received from various authorities including jail department, police and social welfare department of the government have recommended his premature release but the state government have failed to appreciate the same.

He also told the court that his plea was rejected three times despite his good conduct in jail, affirmative attitude towards own reform and reformative activities being run in jail.

“However, even after the petitioner (Manu Sharma) complied with all the required parameters set out by the SRB order and noted in SRB minutes of meeting dated October 4, 2018, and after having undergone more than the prescribed maximum sentence envisioned in the SRB order in respect of the petitioner, his case was rejected by the SRB without assigning any cogent reasons and without application of mind in an arbitrary, unfair and whimsical manner on all three occasions,” the plea read.

Manu Sharma has served 15 years in jail without remission and over 20 years with remission and therefore, he is eligible for grant of premature release, advocate Sahni said.

The SRB is a statutory body with Delhi Home Minister, Law Secretary and Home Secretary among its other members.

The members review the jail and police reports and the social welfare reports of prisoners to take a final decision on the proposals for their release. Their report is forwarded to Delhi Lieutenant Governor for a final decision.