In a case which witnessed video-conferencing,the Punjab and Haryana High Court has converted the murder charge,slapped against Jeetinder Mohan Singh who was awarded life imprisonment for allegedly murdering advocate Manisha Attri,into causing death by negligence,and reduced the life sentence to two years of rigorous imprisonment. However,since the accused has been behind bars for the past four years,he will now be released.
Significantly,the High Court has awarded Rs 7 lakh compensation to the kin of the deceased. The compensation will be paid by Jeetinder Mohan to Manishas family.
The case holds significance as it was arguably for the first time in the region,all district courts of Punjab and Haryana,that the statement of a witness was recorded through video-conferencing. Manisha had died on February 25,1996,in an accident while returning from the district courts.
In his complaint,father and lawyer I P Attri had alleged that the accused killed Manisha as she was not withdrawing a particular case being fought in the Kharar court. He said Jeetinder Mohans father was interested in two disputed booths located in Phase IV in Mohali,the owner of which was represented by Manisha.
It was alleged that in order to help his father,Jeetinder Mohan,in connivance with six others,had killed Manisha. A prosecution witness in his statement had stated he had seen a blue Maruti car approaching from Batra chowk,at the speed of about 70 km per hour. The car,he said,abruptly turned towards Sector 23 and hit a scooter being driven by the victim. The girl fell on the front screen of the car. The car turned backwards and then ran over Manisha.
The witness had also added that the pillion rider (the girls mother) was thrown about 10 to 12 feet high in the air. Jeetinder Mohan was driving this car,it was later held.
In March 2008,a local court of Chandigarh had awarded life imprisonment to Jeetinder Mohan. Since then he has been behind bars. Holding it to be a case of murder,the lower court had acquitted the remaining six accused. Those acquitted were Paramjit Singh,Jasneet,Ravinder Pal,Jeetinder Pal,Chinder Pal and Gurpreet.
While Jeetinder Mohan moved the High Court challenging his life imprisonment,advocate I P Attri approached the High Court demanding conviction of those acquitted. Finding little conviction in the appeal filed by Attri,the High Court dismissed his appeals.
Refusing to hold it to be a case of murder,the High Court reduced the charge to causing death by negligence. Senior lawyer Vinod Ghai had contended that father of the deceased I P Attri had made improvements in his statement and that it was a case of road accident.