Jessica case: Shayan Munshi to face trial for perjury

New Delhi, May 22 (IANS) The Delhi High Court Wednesday ordered that a case of perjury 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 discharged 17 other witnesses in the case, while passing directions on ensuring safety of vulnerable witnesses in criminal cases.

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

The court 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.”

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

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 court also passed some directions on ensuring safety of vulnerable witnesses in criminal cases, saying it shall bind and govern the Delhi government, till it was replaced by suitable legislation.

The court in its direction said: “The Delhi government shall immediately and in any event within 10 weeks from today, issue a Witness Protection Policy which shall provide the principles and guidelines that police, the prosecution and executive agencies shall follow.”

“The guidelines shall incorporate the material elements indicated in the various reports of the Law Commission, court directions and any other recommendations of any official committee in that regard.”

In another direction, the bench told law enforcement agencies to conduct an assessment of the threat or potential danger to any victim, witnesses or their families in criminal trials.

“If such threats are assessed to be sufficiently serious, and the witnesses request law enforcement assistance, witness protection funds can be used to provide assistance to witnesses which helps law enforcement keep witnesses safe and help ensure witnesses appear in court and provide testimony,” the court ordered.

The agencies concerned shall also ensure that the witnesses or victims are transported to safety during investigation and trial and proper security is given to them, said the court.

The Delhi government shall prepare an Action Taken Report and place it before the the court at the end of 10 weeks, it directed.

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

The court had taken suo motu cognizance of the matter and sought to prosecute for perjury 19 witnesses who turned hostile during the trial.

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.

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