NEW DELHI: Manu Sharma has been sentenced to life in prison for Jessica Lall’s murder and told to pay a fine of Rs50,000.
Justice RS Sodhi and Justice PK Bhasin of the Delhi high court, who pronounced the sentence on Wednesday, awarded his accomplices, Vikas Yadav and Amardeep Singh Gill alias Tony, four years’ rigorous imprisonment and fined them Rs2000 each.
Prosecution lawyer Mukta Gupta made a strong plea for the death sentence, arguing that Sharma’s “crime shocked society and his actions belie any possibility of reform”. But the judges said Jessica Lall’s murder does not fall in the ‘rarest of rare’ category and deemed life imprisonment appropriate.
“This case has shocked the confidence of society in the criminal justice delivery system,” the bench said, “but it cannot be said that the convict would be a threat to society.”
It continued: “Though intentional, the murder having been committed without premeditation, we feel justice would be satisfied if we sentence Siddharth Vashisht alias Manu Sharma to life imprisonment along with a fine of Rs50,000.”
The court dismissed bail applications filed by Gill and Yadav. Sharma’s lawyer told reporters that his party would move the Supreme Court as Bina Ramani was wrongly held as a witness.
During sentencing, the three convicts appeared deprived of sleep. As the judges announced the punishment, Sharma looked calm. Yadav, who stood behind Gill, leaned on him during the hour-long argument. Yadav appeared defiant as state lawyer Gupta made her case. Gill looked shaken.
After the sentences were awarded, the convicts sat outside the court, waiting for the order, surrounded by friends and family. The distraught Gill sat with his father, who was seen consoling him. Sharma looked cheerful as he shook hands with friends, as did Yadav, who was reassured by supporters.
The families of Jessica Lall, Manu Sharma, and Vikas Yadav did not attend the proceedings. Neelam Katara and Indu Jalali, who were present on the day of conviction, also kept away from court on Wednesday.