Jessica Lal Murder: Delhi HC Asks SRB To Consider Manu Sharma's Plea For Premature Release
HC has asked SRB to consider his plea in next meeting
The Delhi High Court on Monday refused to grant Jessica Lal murder convict lifer Siddhartha Vashishtha alias Manu Sharma his request for premature release from jail but asked the Sentence Review Board (SRB) to consider his request at its next meeting.
Justice Najmi Waziri disposed of Sharma's plea who had sought premature release from jail citing the case of Tandoor murder convict Sushil Kumar Sharma. On December 31, Sushil Kumar was released from jail after the Delhi High Court allowed his plea for premature release after 23 years of incarceration for murdering his wife. Sushil had also questioned the decision-making of the Sentence Review Board.
Seeking a similar relief, Manu Sharma had moved the high court by way of a petition filed through advocate Amit Sahni, saying he has completed 20 years of imprisonment with remission in the year 2018 and challenged its October 4, 2018 order by which the board had rejected his plea. The decision of the board was upheld by the Delhi government on December 7, 2018.
Manu Sharma was convicted in the year 2006 for the murder of model Jessica Lal at the Tamarind Court restaurant owned by socialite Bina Ramani at Qutub Colonnade in south Delhi's Mehrauli area on the night of April 30, 1999.
In his plea argued by senior advocate Salman Khurshid, the petitioner said the board had rejected his plea even when reports received from various authorities, including Jail Department, Local Police, Hometown Police and Social Welfare Department of Hometown and Delhi, have all recommended his premature release.
He said the board failed to appreciate the same, while also submitting that he has been released on parole nine times and furlough 19 times.
"The Social Welfare Department, Delhi & Hometown have recommended premature release of the Convict. The Chief Probation Officer Delhi has strongly recommended and supported the premature release of the convict in the meeting of the Board," said the petition.
The petition also said that in August 2018, the Delhi High Court had, in a public interest litigation, said the Sentence Review Board shall conduct a suo motu review of all the sentence of prisoners whose period of imprisonment have exceeded the limits of 20 years and that the board meets quarterly but the order is not being complied with in letter and spirit.
It is to be noted that the Sentence Review Board was constituted in the year 2004 to consider the case of release of convicts after many prisoners raised the issue of illegal confinement.
For deciding any case for premature release, the board has to consider the reports and recommendations of the jail superintendent which includes the conduct in jail, report of the welfare officer (aptitude for reform, the post-release opportunity for work) and reports received from police regarding law and order problem if the lifer is released.
Manu Sharma said that in his case, all parameters for premature release were being met but his request was rejected forcing him to move court.
The high court, however, refused to grant his prayer but ordered the board to consider his case at the next meeting.
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