Jessica case: Shayan Munshi to be tried for perjury

New Delhi, May 22 (IANS) The Delhi High Court Wednesday ordered that a perjury case be registered against Bollywood actor Shayan Munshi and ballistic expert Prem Sagar Manocha for turning hostile during their deposition in the murder trial of model Jessica Lall here.

A division bench of Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice G.P. Mittal also discharged 17 other witnesses in the case.

The accused may get a maximum of seven years in jail under the perjury case.

The court in the order said: “….the Registrar General of this court to file a complaint before the competent court having jurisdiction to consider and take action under Section 340 CrPC against the respondents (Munshi and Manocha) in the above applications.”

Referring to the issue of witness protection, the court referred the matter to the chief justice to convert it into a public interest litigation (PIL) and list it before the appropriate bench for July 8.

The court also directed the Delhi government to “create witness protection policy within 10 weeks”.

The model Jessica Lall was shot dead at Tamarind Court, a restaurant owned by socialite Bina Ramani, in south Delhi’s Mehrauli area on the night of April 29-30, 1999.

Lall was shot dead by Manu Sharma, son of Haryana Congress leader Venod Sharma after she refused to serve a drink to him at the party.

The bench pronounced its order two years after reserving the judgment on May 4, 2011.

The court had taken suo motu cognizance of the matter and sought to prosecute for perjury a record 19 witnesses who turned hostile during the trial, questioning the prosecution how could so many of its witnesses change their testimony.

The trial court had acquitted Manu Sharma while the high court awarded him life imprisonment. Actor Munshi had lodged the FIR in the case.

The Supreme Court in April 2010 upheld the high court’s order in the murder case and also endorsed its findings on the issue of perjury.

Munshi, the complainant in the case, pleaded to the court not to prosecute him and said he could not be termed hostile as even the Supreme Court had used part of his deposition in convicting the accused.

He had disowned the complaint during the trial, saying he “did not know Hindi”.

Socialite Andleeb Sehgal, ballistic expert Roop Singh, electrician Shiv Shankar Dass and eyewitness Jagannath Jha are among the 19 people against whom the court pronounced verdict.

The prosecution had told the high court to refer 19 of the 31 hostile witnesses, including Munshi, to the magisterial court for their trial on charges of perjury.

Of the total 31 witnesses, only 19 were available for trial as three had died while the court had itself discharged 10 of them earlier on the ground that there was no major deviation between their statements to the police and later to the court, the prosecution had said.

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