On April 29, 1999, Jessica was bartending at a Delhi restaurant owned by designer Bina Ramani, who was hosting a private party that night. Sharma asked Jessica for a drink. When she refused, he shot her. Jessica was taken to a hospital by Ramani, where she was declared dead. Two days later, Sharma’s Tata Safari car was found in Noida, near Delhi. Sharma himself surrendered a few days after that. He has, since then, denied that he killed Jessica.
A trial court in Delhi first acquitted Sharma in February 2006. The Delhi High Court then reversed that decision in December 2006. Sharma appealed to the Supreme Court against the High Court’s verdict that found him guilty. The Supreme Court, in its judgment, has said, “The prosecution has proved beyond reasonable doubt the presence of Manu Sharma at the site of the offence.”
The Jessica Lall case struck a chord with middle-class India which saw it as a example of an middle class family taking on rich and powerful opponents. The trial also exposed the weaknesses of the legal system. The case stretched for years without any major development, and one after another, key witnesses turned hostile.
The witness included Shyan Munshi, who was a model and a friend of Jessica’s. He first said he had seen the murder happen and that Manu Sharma had fired the gun twice; but in 2001, he failed to identify Sharma in court, dealing a huge blow to the prosecution.
The two witnesses who are credited with helping to convict Sharma are Ramani, and her daughter, Malini. Bina Ramani identified Manu Sharma, Amardeep Singh Gil, Alok Khanna and Vikas Yadav as present at the restaurant. Malini Ramani said she had overheard the conversation when Jessica refused Manu Sharma a drink which led him to pull out his gun and both said they saw Sharma shoot Jessica.
“It’s not impossible to nab the culprits. We should not lose faith in judiciary. I would like to thank god, my family and media for this justice,” said Sabrina Lall.
11 Years is fine for Justice?