19 Apr 2010

Manu Sharma's conviction for murder: Supreme Court affirms

In a judgment running over 200 pages pronounced by the Supreme Court today, the conviction of Manu Sharma for murder of Jessica Lal has been upheld. Unable to persuade itself with the challenge to the decision of the Delhi High Court, the Supreme Court dismissed all the objections to the conviction sentence in a well reasoned order discussing the fallacies of the defence submissions and rejecting the grounds posed before it to interfere against the conviction.

In the ultimate analysis, the Supreme Court concluded as under;
1)     The appellate Court has all the necessary powers to re-evaluate the evidence let in before the trial Court as well as the conclusions reached. It has a duty to specify the compelling and substantial reasons in case it reverses the order of acquittal passed by the trial Court. In the case on hand, the High Court by adhering to all the ingredients and by giving cogent and adequate reasons reversed the order of acquittal.
2)   The presence of the accused at the scene of crime is proved through the ocular testimonies of PWs 1, 2, 6, 20, 23, 24 and 70, corroborated by Ex PW 12/D-I as well as 3 PCR calls Ex PW 11/A, B and C.
3)   Phone calls made immediately after an incident to the police constitutes an FIR only when they are not vague and cryptic. Calls purely for the reason of getting the police to the scene of crime do not necessarily constitute the FIR. In the present case, the phone calls were vague and therefore could not be registered as the FIR. The FIR was properly lodged as per the statement of Shyan Munshi PW-2.
4)   Delay in recording the statement of the witnesses do not necessarily discredit their testimonies. The court may rely on such testimonies if they are cogent and credible.
5)   The laboratory reports in the present case are vague and ambiguous and, therefore, they cannot be relied upon to reach any specific conclusion regarding the incident.
6)   The   evidence   regarding   the   actual   incident,   the    testimonies of witnesses, the evidence connecting the vehicles and cartridges to the accused - Manu Sharma, as well as his conduct after the incident prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The High Court has analyzed all the evidence and arrived at the correct conclusion.
7)   The public prosecutor is under a duty of disclosure under the Cr.P.C., Bar Council Rules and relevant principles of common law. Nevertheless, a violation of this duty does not necessarily vitiate the entire trial. A trial would only be vitiated if non-disclosure amounts to a material irregularity and causes irreversible prejudice to the accused. In the present case, no such prejudice was caused to the accused, and therefore the trial is not vitiated.
8)   No prejudice had been caused to the right of the accused to fair trial and non-furnishing of the copy of one of the ballistic reports had not hampered the ends of justice. The right of the accused to disclosure has not received any set back in the facts and circumstances of the case.
9)   The High Court has rightly convicted the other two accused, namely, Amardeep Singh Gill @ Tony Gill and Vikas Yadav after appreciation of the evidence of PWs 30 and 101.
10)   Normally, the judgment/order should be set aside or affirmed as the case may be but preferably without offering any undesirable comments, disparaging remarks or indications which would impinge upon the dignity and respect of judicial system.
11)   Every effort should be made by the print and electronic media to ensure that the distinction between trial by media and informative media should  always be maintained. Trial  by media should be avoided particularly, at a stage when the suspect is entitled to the constitutional protections. Invasion of his rights is bound to be held as impermissible.

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