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FIRJ Analysis 

BY – Kavya Somani

Sidhartha Vashisht @ Manu Sharma vs State (Nct of Delhi) 

Citation – 2010 (6) SCC 1

Facts

In an ongoing party in Delhi, liquor was being served by two bartenders, Jessica Lal and Shayan Munshi. Sidhartha Vashisht, commonly known as Manu Sharma, came along with his friends asking for drinks. The waiter refused to serve him liquor as the party was already over. Jessica Lal, along with the other bartenders there, attempted to persuade him that the party was over and that there was no liquor left with them. In response to the appellant’s refusal to provide booze, he pulled out a pistol and fired one shot at the roof and another at Jessica Lal, hitting her near her left eye. Jessica Lal was rushed to the hospital and declared dead. Manu Sharma along with his friends fled away.

Issue

  1. Is the prosecution’s case against all three defendants proven beyond a reasonable doubt?
  2. Is it reasonable for the trial court to acquit all the defendants of the allegations filed against them?
  3. Is the impugned order imposing penalty in contravention of the Trial Court passed by the High Court enforceable?

Rules

  • Section 2(a) of the Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Act, 1970
  • Section 379 in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
  • Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code- whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.
  • Section 201 in the Indian Penal Code
  • Section 27 of the Arms Act
  • Section 212 of the Indian Penal Code which defines the punishment for offences of harbouring or concealing any person whom he knows or has a reason to believe to be an offender.

Reasoning

The Supreme Court stated that the prosecution had established beyond a reasonable doubt[1] the accusations against Manu Sharma and the other eight defendants, and that the Supreme Court agreed with the first court’s findings and reversed the acquittal into a conviction. High Court, being the appeal court, was responsible for reviewing all of the lower court’s and compelling a substantial reasoning[2].

In any case, if the Appellate Court reverses the acquittal ruling, it should do so with appropriate and essential explanation.

Under the applicable principles of common law and other laws, the public prosecutor has a duty of disclosure; but, a failure of that obligation does not inevitably invalidate the trial. Only if the non-disclosure causes serious irregularity and harm to the accused, can the trial be vitiated. The accused in this instance has not been prejudiced in any way.

Judgement

The Supreme Court concluded that the appeal court had the necessary authority to re-examine all the evidence given in the Court of Trial, reassess the Trial Court’s decision of acquittal, and justify the action of reversing the order of acquittal with appropriate reasoning.

The presence of the accused in the crime scene may be proven by the testimony of seven witnesses, as well as the prosecution’s attestation of evidence and three communications to the Police Control Room, according to the Court. The Court did not rely upon the Laboratory reports that were provided in the case, claiming that they were unclear and vague and, therefore, any definite judgement cannot be reached on the incident by relying upon those. The Court stated that the accused Manu Sharma’s guilt was proven beyond a reasonable doubt by the evidence given regarding the actual incident, the recorded witness statements, and the evidence linking the vehicle and the bullet cartridges to the accused.

The High Court, as the Appellate Court, has appropriately analysed the facts and reached the correct conclusion.

The Court also stated that the other two defendants were rightly convicted by the High Court.

The Supreme Court confirmed the HC’s decision and sentenced the nine defendants to life in prison for murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code.


[1] Shivaji Sahebrao Bobade & Anr vs State of Maharashtra 1973 AIR 2622, 1974 SCR (1) 489

[2] Emperor vs Khwaja Nazir Ahmed (1945) 47 BOMLR 245

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