The Delhi High Court on January 21, 2019, refused to grant relief to Siddharth Vashishta alias Manu Sharma, the main culprit in the Jessica Lal murder case.
Justice Najmi Waziri
who was hearing Sharma’s plea seeking premature release
from prison has, however, directed the Sentence Review Board (SRB) to re-consider his plea in its next meeting in March. The direction came after 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 the next meeting would be held in March.
He assured the court that it will consider Sharma's plea in the next meeting. Manu Sharma, in his plea filed through advocate Amit Sahni, alleging that SRB “acted in a biased, unfair and illegal manner” while rejecting his plea for premature release has sought setting aside of the SRB recommendation, as well as the December 7, 2018, order of the Delhi government, upholding the board’s view. In his plea, Manu Sharma has said that he has served 15 years in jail without remission and over 20 years with remission and therefore, he is eligible for grant of premature release. Through his plea, Manu Sharma also informed the court that 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 have failed to appreciate the same. Senior Advocate Salman Khurshid
, appearing for Sharma, submitted before the court that present case was borne out of “unusual circumstances
” wherein “people far less deserving have been released
” by the Board. He argued that the Board ought to have given “cogent reasons” before rejecting Sharma’s plea after following the guidelines formulated in a 2004 order passed by the Lt. Governor of Delhi. The 2004 guidelines provide for consideration of a plea for early release by a convict sentenced to life imprisonment who has completed 20 years in prison with remission, which is the maximum prescribed period of incarceration. Manu Sharma, son of former Haryana minister Venod Sharma, was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Delhi High Court in December 2006, for killing Jessica Lal. The trial court had acquitted him, but the Delhi High Court had reversed the order and the Supreme Court had upheld his life sentence in April 2010.