Manu Sharma (43), serving life sentence for the murder of model Jessica Lall in a restaurant in 1999, is out of jail after the Delhi L-G approved his premature release, as was recommended by the Sentence Review Board (SRB) in May.
Following the order of the Delhi government, in the name of L-G Anil Baijal, Director General (Prisons) Sandeep Goel said Sharma was released on Monday after completing all formalities pertaining to prisoners’ permanent release from jail.
“… the L-G of NCT of Delhi is pleased to remit the un-expired portion of the sentence of the following 19… life convicts on the recommendations of the Sentence Review Board…,” said the order. The SRB had recommended the release of Sharma and 21 other prisoners. The matter was referred to the L-G, who concurred with the recommendations for release of 19 of them.
Lall was shot dead by Sharma after she had refused to serve him liquor at the restaurant in Mehrauli on the night of April 30, 1999. Sharma, also known as Siddhartha Vashishtha and son of former Union minister Venod Sharma, was sentenced to life in prison by the High Court in December 2006. The trial court acquitted him, but the HC reversed the order and the Supreme Court upheld his life sentence in April, 2010.
Sharma was acquitted by the trial court in 2006 citing lack of evidence. During the trial, several witnesses, including actor Shyan Munshi, turned hostile and did not identify Sharma in court.
This had led to protests across the city, with candlelight vigils held at India Gate and college students leading protest marches on Parliament Street, demanding justice for Lall.
Sharma’s lawyer Amit Sahni said his client was out on emergency parole since the first week of April, as part of measures to decongest jails amid the pandemic.
In 2018, Lall’s sister Sabrina had written to Tihar stating she has no objections to Sharma’s release. His case has come up for review multiple times since 2017, only to be rejected.
The L-G office, in a statement, said SRB guidelines state that every convict shall be eligible for consideration for premature release from prison after serving 14 years of actual imprisonment.
The statement also referred to two Delhi HC orders from 2018 and 2019. The 2018 order had said the state would have to give cogent and compelling reasons for Sharma’s continued detention after the board rejected his application for early release. In 2019, the court had asked the board to consider Sharma’s petition “in its entirety”, after he appealed against the rejection of his plea.
The statement said the L-G concurred with the board’s recommendation “keeping in mind the recommendations of the board, guidelines, rules and court orders in the matter”.
Sharma has undergone imprisonment of 16 years, 11 months and 24 days in actual and 23 years, 4 months and 22 days with remission. He has also availed parole 12 times and furlough 24 times. The Board is chaired by the Delhi Home Minister, Director General (Prisons) among others.
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