New Delhi,12 May:In a double whammy for Manu Sharma sentenced to life imprisonment in Jessica Lall murder case, the Supreme Court on Monday has refused to grant him bail and suspend his punishment."Keeping in view the seriousness of offence, the manner in which the crime was said to have been committed and the gravity of offence, we are of the view that no case has been made out by Sharma for suspension of the sentence and grant of bail", a Bench comprising Justices C K Thakker and D K Jain said."The application deserves to be dismissed and is accordingly dismissed," it said.
The court noted that Sharma’s pleas cannot be granted as his appeal against the conviction by the Delhi High Court has been admitted and awaits final hearing which was likely within "measurable distance of time".The bench said since the appeal was pending, any observation on the case was likely to prejudice one or the other party challenging the High Court verdict.
"We are conscious and mindful that the main matter (appeal) is admitted and is pending for final hearing. Observations on merits, one way or the other, therefore, are likely to prejudice one or the other party to the appeal. We are hence not entering into the correctness or otherwise of the evidence on record," the bench said.
Model Jessica Lall was shot dead in New Delhi on the intervening night of 29th – 30th April 1999 at the Qutub Colonade restaurant in south Delhi owned by socialite Bina Ramani.
Manu Sharma, son of former Union Minister Venod Sharma, was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by the Delhi High Court which had set aside the trial court verdict acquitting him in the case.
The Bench said it was equally an relevant consideration that when a person was convicted by an appeallate court (High Court), he cannot be said to be an "innocent person" untill the final decision was recorded by the superior court in his favour.
"The mere fact that during the period of trial, the accused was on bail and there was no misuse of liberty, does not warrant suspension of execution of sentence and grant of bail. What really necessary is to consider whether reasons exists to suspend execution of the sentence and grant of bail," it said.
The Bench said "initial presumption of innocence" was also not in favour of Sharma who remained on bail for considerable period during the trial of the case as his acquittal by the sessions court was set aside by the High Court.
"It, however, cannot be overlooked that as on today, Sharma has been found guilty and convicted by a competent criminal court. Initial presumption of innocence in favour of accused, therefore, is no more available to the applicant," the Bench said.
It said that "on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, this is not a fit case to exercise power under section 389 of CrPC (for grant of suspension of sentence pending appeal)".