Jessica Lall murder: HC asks government to take call on Manu Sharma's premature release

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Jessica Lall murder: HC asks government to take call on Manu Sharma's premature release
Jessica Lall murder: HC asks government to take call on Manu Sharma's premature release

New Delhi : The Delhi High Court on Monday refused to grant relief to Siddharth Vashisht, alias Manu Sharma, the main culprit in the Jessica Lall murder case, directing the Delhi government instead to reconsider 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 that 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 asked the board to consider the convict's conduct as Manu Sharma counsel, senior advocate Salman Khurshid and advocate Amit Sahni informed the bench that Sharma's conduct has remained good in prison and while on bail, parole or furlough.

The court was hearing the plea filed by Manu Sharma through advocate Amit Sahni. Sharma has sought setting aside of government order of 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 the Sentence Review Board order rejecting his premature release.

Khurshid told the court that the plea was rejected merely on the ground of gravity and perversity of the crime committed by Manu Sharma.

In his plea, Manu Sharma said 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 had failed to appreciate it.

There was no adverse report against Manu Sharma, the advocate told the court. He also told the court that his plea was rejected thrice despite his good conduct in jail, affirmative attitude towards own reform and reformative activities being run in jail.

Mehra also told the court that new Delhi Prisons Rules, 2018 came into effect from January 1, 2019 and that Manu Sharma's case would be reconsidered under the new rules when the SRB holds its next meeting.

Khurshid told the court that Manu Sharma has undergone 21 years one month and six days of imprisonment, including remission. He said he was eligible for premature release.