jessuca lal murder case

Jessica Lal Murder Case {Sidhartha Vashisht @ Manu Sharma vs. State (NCT of Delhi)}

Share this

Name of the case: Sidhartha vashisht Alias manu sharma  vs State (NCT of Delhi) 

Citation: (2010) 6 SCC 1; (2010) 2 SCC (cri) 1385

Judges: P.Sathasivam and Swatanter Kumar

READ THE JUDGEMENT HERE

The case of Sidhartha Vashisht vs state (NCT of delhi) is a mighty precedent in the law relating to Criminal Procedure. The decision made in this case was that the court should only interfere with the order of acquittal when it has sustained major infirmities and if the court believes that the lower court has misread or has ignored some material facts or documents. In this judgement the main issue was whether the telephonic conversations, which occurred after the offence, can constitute an FIR. The apex court upheld the order of conviction passed by the High Court convicting all the 9 accused including the appellant Sidharthha Vashisht. 

Facts of the case

  • On the night of the 29th April 1999 and 30th April 1999 at 2:20 AM, a telephonic communication was made to the Police station Mehrauli, informing that someone in white shirt and jeans had shot someone.
  • A diary entry was made at the police station and Sub-inspector (SI) Sharad Kumar and Constable Meenu Mathew left for the crime spot. After sometime, the Sub-inspector (SI) Sunil Kumar along with constable Subhash left for the crime spot.
  • When the police reached the crime spot, they were informed that the injured was removed to Ashlok Hospital, SI Sunil Kumar left for the hospital with constable Subhash.
  • At the hospital SI Sunil met Beena Ramani (owner of the restaurant) and questioned her on the incident. She directed the officers to talk to Shyam Munshi saying that he knew everything about the incident that occurred
  • The statement of Shyam Munshi was recorded and an endorsement was made of the same for the registration of FIR. At 30th April 1999, 4 AM, FIR at Police Station Mehrauli was registered.
  • In the meanwhile, Jessica Lal had been shifted to Apollo Hospital. Afterwards, SI Sunil came back to the crime spot where he was informed about the lifting of the black safari from the spot. Two empty cartridges were seized and a supplementary statement was made by Shyam Munshi.
  • On 30th April 1999, 5:45 AM, information was received that the injured Jessica Lal died at Apollo Hospital.
  • Charges were changed from section 307 to section 302 IPC/201/120B IPC and under section 27 of the Arms Act against Manu Sharma (accused), charges under section 201/120B IPC against Vikas Yadav, Tony Gill and Alok Khanna and charges under section 212 IPC were charged against Havinder Chopra, Raja Chopra, Ruby Gill and Yograj Singh, hence the trial commenced.
  • All the Nine accused were acquitted by the trial court’s session Judge including Manu Sharma, which was challenged by the prosecution by appeal before the high court.
  • The High Court dismissed the impugned order of the trial court of acquittal and convicted and all the Nine accused of the case.
  • An appeal was made by the accused before the present court, hence this case.

Laws Involved 

  1. Section 302 and section 201 read with section 120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1973
  2. Section 27 of the Arms Act, 1959
  3. Section 212 of the Indian Penal Code, 1973

Application of law 

  1. Section 302 and 201 read with 120B of IPC defines the offence of murder and casuing disapperence of evidences or providing false information read with criminal conspiracy. 
  2. Section 27 Arms Act defines punishment for using guns.
  3. Section 212 of IPC defines the punishment for offences of harbouring or concealing any person who knows or has a reason to believe to be an offender.

Issues dealt in the case 

  1. Whether the prosecution was able to establish its case against all the accused beyond reasonable doubt?
  2.  Whether the trial court was justified in acquitting all the accused?
  3. Whether the order of the High Court of convicting the accused was sustainable?

Arguments of the Appellant

The arguments given by the appellant’s side were that his fundamental right to free and fair trial, which is guaranteed under Art. 21 of the Constitution of India, was compromised during the appeal made in the High Court against the order of acquittal of the trial court and that two witnesses were controlled and pressured to support the case of the prosecution by registering an FIR against them. 

TThe appellant’s side submitted that the FIR recorded on the statement of Mr Shyam Munshi is not an FIR but a written statement. There were several observational errors by the High Court in the ballistic report from CFSL, errors in disbelieving P.S. Manocha, that witness Shravan Kumar is a planted witness.

Arguments of the Respondent

The respondent side submitted that the order of Acquittal of all the accused delivered by the trial court was a commission of error and as being the appellate judiciary, the High Court was fully justified in re-analysing all the evidence and witnesses and convicting all the Nine accused, including Manu Sharma, with the fitting sentences. 

The respondent side further submitted the documentary evidence and other legal principles stating that the conviction and sentence awarded by the High Court are agreed by the respondents and prayed that no changes or interference should be done by this court, and dismissal of the appeals of the accuseds.

Judgement

The Supreme Court held that the appellate court had all the requisite power to re-evaluate all the evidence that was presented in the Court of Trial and reconsider the order of acquittal passed by the Court of Trial and justifying the action of reversing the order acquittal with adequate reasoning. 

The Court stated that the prosecution of the case did establish the charges against Manu sharma and Eight other accused beyond doubt, and that the Supreme court is in agreement with the decision of the first court and reversed the order of acquittal into one of conviction. 

The Supreme Court stated that all the appeals were devoid of every merit and were dismissed.

Reasoning adopted by the Court

The Supreme Court while answering the issues and providing the reasoning for the same also provided clarifications for the contentions presented by the appellate side in front of the Court. The reasoning provided by the Court was as follows:

  • While answering the issue number 2 and 3, the court observed that the appellate court, i.e., the High Court had all the satisfactory requisite power to again analyse the evidence and the order that was passed by the Trial Court. Being the appellate Court, it had the duty of looking into all the compelling and substantial reasoning provided by the lower court. 
  • In any case the Appellate Court reverses the order of acquittal, it should adhere with all the adequate and necessary reasoning for reversal.
  • The Court marked that the presence of the accused in the crime scene can be established by the ocular testimony of 7 witnesses with the attestation of evidence presented by the prosecution and the three communications made to the Police Control Room.
  • The demarcation of first initial information provided to the Police to register the FIR was given down by the Court that the telephonic communications made to the police can constitute an FIR, unless those communications are not cryptic and vague in nature. The calls made to the PCR just for the reason of getting Police to the scene of crime do not necessarily result in the registration of FIR.
  • Late recording of the statements of witnesses does not necessarily result in discreditation of testimonies. If the Court deems fit they can rely upon such testimonies if they are convincing and reliable.
  • The Court did not rely upon the Laboratory reports that were presented in the case, stating that they were ambiguous and vague and, therefore, any specific conclusion cannot be drawn regarding the incident by relying upon those.
  • The Court observed that the Guilt of the accused Manu Sharma was proved beyond any doubt through the evidence presented as to the real incident that happened, the witnesses testimonies recorded, the evidence which connects the vehicle and the bullet cartridges to the accused. 
  • The High Court being the Appellate court has analysed the evidence correctly and has reached the right conclusion.
  • The public prosecutor has a duty of disclosure under the relevant principles of common law and other law, however, if a violation of the said Duty happens, it does not necessarily vitiate the trial. The Vitiation of trial can only be amounted if the non-disclosure results in material irregularity and prejudice to the accused. In the present case no such prejudice has occurred to the accused. 
  • The Court also mentioned that the High Court correctly convicted the other two accused.

Ratio decidendi 

The court held that the order of acquittal should only be interfered by the higher appellate court when it undergoes some significant weaknesses and only if the court believes that the evidence has been ignored or misread by the lower court. 

Breach of duty of disclosure by the Public Prosecutor, under the common and procedural law Principles which are relevant, does not vitiate the entire trial. And telephonic calls which could be considered as the first initial information are those which can not come under the term of being cryptic and vague.

Obiter dicta

The case stated and discussed a crucial aspect of Communication of first initial information to police. In the judgement it was observed that the two telephonic communications that were made to the Mehrauli police stations were not clear about the commission of offence and were termed as vague and cryptic communications, which cannot constitute an FIR. The Court held that “Phone calls immediately after an incident to the police constitutes an FIR unless they are not vague and cryptic.”

Conclusion 

In Criminal Procedure, there are many case laws defining different aspects of the code, and in the part relating to the pre-trial procedure, the case of jessica lal is considered to be a landmark judgement with the facts being a near to clear elaboration of the pre-trial process, with elaborate reasoning on what can be considered the first initial information received by the police and can constitute the FIR, search and seizure of the evidences, the verification and arrest of the accused. 

In this judgement the very main contention presented by the defence council was whether the information received by Mr. Shyam Munshi should be considered as the first initial information on the basis of which the FIR registered by the Police, because there were two more communications made before that. This was answered by the court and a demarcation was set over what information can constitute as the initial information of the offence. That being, the information should not be cryptic and vague in nature. 

Endnotes

1.   Sidhartha vashisht Alias manu sharma  vs State (NCT of Delhi) (2010) 6 SCC 1; (2010) 2 SCC (cri) 1385

READ THE JUDGEMENT HERE

Pre trial procedure in crimimal matters in India - Harshit Saxena

Harshit Saxena

Author

Mr Harshit Saxena hails from Symbiosis International University and spends most of his time in writing and directing plays. His interest lies in Indian criminal law. His other passions are playing football and debating. For any clarifications, feedback, and advice, you can reach him at harshitsaxena22197@gmail.com

Leave a Reply