Sidhartha Vashisht alias Manu Sharma vs State (NCT of Delhi)

In the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India

CASE NAMESidhartha Vashisht alias Manu Sharma vs State (NCT Of Delhi)
CITATIONSCRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 179 OF 2007 With CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 157 OF 2007 AND CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 224 OF 2007  
DECIDED ON19 April 2010
APPELLENTSidhartha Vashisht alias Manu Sharma
RESPONDANTState (NCT Of Delhi)
BENCHJJ. P. Sathasivam, Swatanter Kumar
  RELEVENT STATUTE  Constitution of India, Indian Evidence Act 1872, Indian Penal Code 1860, Arms Act, Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 1985, The Central Excise Act 1944, The Police Act 1861, The Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Act 1970, The Advocates Act 1961
  ARTICLES REFERRED  Article 21, Article 1, Article 19[1](a) of the Indian Constitution.

Abstract

This case of Jessica Lal’s murder highlights some very intriguing arguments. The most talked-about being the rightness of a media trial. How far can media go in solving a case? And can the media overlook the rights of the accused? And above anything, can an appellate court reverse the judgment of the lower courts? All such questions might just be answered in this case.

Introduction

Justice in high-profile cases like this makes us believe our judiciary system doesn’t discriminate between powerful and ordinary people, and there’ll always be a triumph of excellent over evil. This case is additionally critical concerning the quantity of involvement of mass media and social media in shaping the Justice to those that aren’t rich and powerful. It’s often believed that News channels aren’t keen on showing news but have an interest in making opinions and sometimes making fabricated news. But not during this case, this was the start of a media trial during this country and makes it hard to believe that the case would are concluded the way it did if it wasn’t for the involvement of media.

Background of the Case

On a fateful night intervening 29th and 30th April 1999, Jessica Lal was shot and killed in a ‘Thursday Party’ in a restaurant named ‘Tamarind Cafe’. The party with over 300 people, the majority of which claiming to be completely unaware of the happening. When acquitted by the Additional session judge’s court, the media intervened in quite a manner no other case experienced before. As a result, the case was taken up by the High Court, when the case was heard by the High court, it reversed the previous judgment. This was further challenged in the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.

Facts of the case

  • On the night intervening 29-30.04.1999, a `Thursday Party’ was going on at Qutub Colonnade at “Once upon a time” restaurant also called “Tamarind Cafe”. The liquor was being served by the bartenders, namely, Jessica Lal (since deceased) and one Shyan Munshi (PW-2). At about 2.00 a.m., Sidhartha Vashisht @ Manu Sharma, along with his friends came there and asked for two drinks. The waiter did not serve him liquor as the party was over. Jessica Lal and Malini Ramani (PW-6), who was also present there, tried to make him understand that the party was over and there was no liquor available with them. On refusal to serve liquor, the appellant took out a pistol and fired one shot at the roof and another at Jessica Lal which hit near her left eye as a result of which she fell down. Beena Ramani (PW-20), who was present there, stopped the appellant and questioned him as to why he had shot Jessica Lal and demanded the weapon from him but he did not hand over the pistol and fled away.
  • Jessica Lal was rushed to Ashlok Hospital from where she was shifted to Apollo Hospital. On 30.04.1999, in the early morning hours, Jessica Lal has declared brought dead at Apollo Hospital.
  • At about 4.00 a.m., FIR No. 287/99 was registered at the police station, Mehrauli.
  • The post mortem was conducted at about 11.30 a.m. at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences on the same day i.e. 30.04.1999.
  • On the night intervening 30.04.1999/01.05.1999, at about 2 a.m., the police raided the farmhouse of the appellant and on search being conducted seized a photograph of the appellant. The black Tata Safari was found by the U.P. Police (Sector 24, Noida Police Station) and on the next day, Noida Police Station seized the said black Tata Safari.
  • On 05.05.1999 at about 2.30 a.m., Amardeep Singh Gill @ Tony Gill and Alok Khanna was arrested and from their alleged disclosure statements, the involvement of Sidhartha Vashisht @ Manu Sharma was confirmed.
  • On 03.08.1999, a charge sheet was filed against ten accused persons. On 23.11.2000, the Additional Sessions Judge framed charges against the appellant/Manu Sharma under Sections 302, 201 read with 120B IPC and Section 27 of the Arms Act, accused Amardeep Singh Gill was charged under Section 120 read with Section 201 IPC, accused Vikas Yadav was charged under Section 120 read with 201 IPC as also Section 201 read with 34 IPC, accused Harvinder Chopra, Vikas Gill, Yograj Singh and Raja Chopra under Section 212 IPC and charges under Section 120B/201 IPC were framed against accused Vikas Yadav, Amardeep Singh Gill @ Tony Gill and Alok Khanna and charges under Sections 201 and 212 IPC were framed against accused Shyam Sunder Sharma. The trial began in May 2001, in all, 101 witnesses were examined by the prosecution and two court witnesses were also examined.
  • On 21.02.2006, after trial, the Additional Sessions Judge acquitted all the nine accused including the appellant- Manu Sharma. Challenging the acquittal, the prosecution filed an appeal before the High Court being Crl. Appeal No. 193 of 2006. On 20.12.2006, the High Court vides the impugned order, convicted and sentenced the appellants, as mentioned above. Challenging the said order of the High Court, all the three appellants filed above mentioned separate appeals before this Court. All the appeals were heard together and are being disposed of by this common judgment.

Issues involved


a) Whether the prosecution has established its case beyond reasonable doubt against all the three accused?

b) Whether the trial Court is justified in acquitting all the accused in respect of charges leveled against them?

c) Whether the impugned order of the High Court imposing punishment in contrary to the Trial Court is sustainable?

Related Provisions

  • Section 2(a) of the Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Act, 1970: has on appeal reversed an order of acquittal of an accused person and sentenced him to imprisonment for life or to imprisonment for a period of not less than ten years;
  • Section 379 in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973: Appeal against conviction by High Court in certain cases. Where the High Court has, on appeal, reversed an order of acquittal of an accused person and convicted him and sentenced him to death or to imprisonment for life or to imprisonment for a term of ten years or more, he may appeal to the Supreme Court.
  • Section 302 in the Indian Penal Code: Punishment for murder.—whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or 1[imprisonment for life], and shall also be liable to fine.
  • Section 201 in the Indian Penal Code

Causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender.—Whoever, knowing or having reason to believe that an offence has been committed, causes any evidence of the commission of that offence to disappear, with the intention of screening the offend­er from legal punishment, or with that intention gives any infor­mation respecting the offence which he knows or believes to be false; if a capital offence.—shall, if the offence which he knows or believes to have been committed is punishable with death, be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine; if punishable with imprisonment for life.—and if the offence is punishable with 1[imprisonment for life], or with imprisonment which may extend to ten years, shall be punished with imprison­ment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine; if punishable with less than ten years’ imprisonment.—and if the offence is punishable with imprisonment for any term not extend­ing to ten years, shall be punished with imprisonment of the description provided for the offence, for a term which may extend to one-fourth part of the longest term of the imprisonment pro­vided for the offence, or with fine, or with both.

  • 120B in the Indian Penal Code

Punishment of criminal conspiracy—

(1)Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with death, [imprisonment for life] or rigorous imprisonment for a term of two years or upwards, shall, where no express provision is made in this Code for the punishment of such a conspiracy, be punished in the same manner as if he had abetted such offence.

(2) Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy other than a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable as aforesaid shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding six months, or with fine or with both.]

  • Section 27 in Arms Act

Punishment for using arms, etc.—

Whoever uses any arms or ammunition in contravention of section 5 shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than three years but which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine.

Whoever uses any prohibited arms or prohibited ammunition in contravention of section 7 shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.

Whoever uses any prohibited arms or prohibited ammunition or does any act in contravention of section 7 and such use or act results in the death of any other person shall be punishable with death.

  • Rule 16 of the Chapter II, part VI of the Bar Council of India Rules under the Advocates Act, 1961 is as under: An advocate appearing for the prosecution of a criminal trial shall so conduct the prosecution that it does not lead to conviction of the innocent. The suppression of material capable of establishing the innocence of the accused shall be scrupulously avoided.

Related Cases

  1. State Of Madhya Pradesh & Ors vs Nandlal Jaiswal & Ors on 24 October, 1986[1]

The case was cited with reference to the sale of liquor. It deals with the regulations in the state of Madhya Pradesh; it was held that Madhya Pradesh Excise Act, 1915 regulates the manufacture, sale and possession of intoxicating liquor in the State of Madhya Pradesh.

Section 14 deals with the establishment or licensing of distilleries and warehouses. The State Government has, in the exercise of the power confrere under section 62, made several sets of Rules. Rule II of the Rules of General Application made inter alia under subsection 2(h) of section 62 lays down “five years” as the maximum period for which wholesale licenses for the manufacture supply and sale of liquor could be granted Rule XXII provides for the manner in which licenses for the manufacture or sale of intoxicants shall be disposed of.

  • Shivaji Sahebrao Bobade & Anr vs State Of Maharashtra on 27 August, 1973[2]

The Case ponders upon the fact that reasonable doubts must operate to the advantage of the appellant. In India, the law has been laid on these lines long ago. The appellants were charged under s. 302 read with section34 of the Indian Penal Code.  The Sessions Court gave the accused the benefit of the doubt and acquitted them. On appeal, the High Court after elaborate consideration of the evidence and the grounds relied upon by the trial judge to discard the prosecution case, reversed the findings and convicted both the accused to imprisonment for life.  Confirming the conviction and sentence and dismissing the appeal.

  • Emperor vs Khwaja Nazir Ahmed on 17 October, 1944[3]

The case date back to the pre-independence era, the appeal was brought from a judgment and order of the High Court of Judicature at Lahore, on October 24, 1941 (Criminal Revision Side). The question raised is stated, and their Lordships think correctly stated, in the case presented by the respondent to be whether the High Court had power, under Section 561A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, to quash all proceedings taken in pursuance of two first information reports. In the view of the lordships, the question so far is one of investigation, not prosecution. In accordance with their view, their Lordships will humbly advise His Majesty that the appeal should be allowed, the decree and order of the High Court quashed and the investigation permitted to proceed.

  • H. N. Rishbud And Inder Singh vs The State Of Delhi(And Connected … on 14 December, 1954[4]

The court in this case held, that s. 5(4) and proviso to s. 3 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 (II of 1947) and the corresponding s. 5-A of the Prevention of Corruption (Second Amendment) Act, 1952 (LIX of 1952) are mandatory and not a directory and that an investigation conducted in violation thereof is illegal. If cognizance is in fact taken on a police report in breach of a mandatory provision relating to the investigation, the results which follow cannot be set aside unless the illegality in the investigation can be shown to have brought about a miscarriage of justice.

Judgement    

The statutory appeals were filed under Section 2(a) of the Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Act, 1970 and under Section 379 of the Criminal Procedure Code against the final judgment and order dated 18/20.12.2006 passed by the High Court of Delhi in Criminal Appeal No. 193 of 2006 whereby the High Court reversed the order of acquittal dated 21.02.2006 passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Delhi, in Sessions Case No. 105 of 2001 and convicted Sidhartha Vashisht @ Manu Sharma (appellant in Crl. A. No. 179 of 2007) under Section 302, 201/120B IPC and Section 27 of the Arms Act and sentenced him to undergo imprisonment for life for the offence under Section 302 IPC together with a fine of Rs.50,000/- to be paid to the family of the victim and in default of payment of fine, to undergo further imprisonment for three years and also sentenced him to undergo imprisonment for four years for the offence under Section 27 of the Arms Act with a fine of Rs.2000/- and in default to further undergo imprisonment for three months. He was further sentenced to undergo imprisonment for four years for the offence under Section 201/120B IPC together with a fine of Rs. 2,000 and, in default, to further undergo imprisonment for three months. The High Court also sentenced Amardeep Singh Gill @ Tony Gill (appellant in Crl.A. No. 157/2007) and Vikas Yadav (appellant in Crl. A.No.224/2007) to undergo rigorous imprisonment for four years and a fine of Rs.2000/- each and, in default of payment of fine, to further undergo imprisonment for three months under Section 201/120B IPC.

“In the light of the above discussion, we hold that the prosecution has established its case beyond doubt against the appellants and we are in agreement with the conclusion arrived at by the High Court, consequently, all the appeals are devoid of any merit and are accordingly dismissed.”

Concepts highlighted

  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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

References

  1. Constitution of India
  2. Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
  3. Indian Penal Code, 1872
  4. http://www.nja.nic.in/6.%20sidhartha%20vashisht.pdf
  5. https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1515299/
  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBne7Esq2zA
  7. https://blog.ipleaders.in/jessica-lal-murder-case-the-epitome-of-judicial-and-media-activism-in-india/

[1] : 1987 AIR 251

[2] : 1973 AIR 2622

[3] (1945) 47 BOMLR 245

[4]  1955 AIR 196,

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