Jessica murder: Court summons Shayan Munshi in perjury case

Bollywood actor Shayan Munshi and a ballistic expert were on Thursday summoned by a Delhi court on complaints seeking their prosecution for turning hostile in the Jessica Lall murder case.

New Delhi: Bollywood actor Shayan Munshi and a ballistic expert were on Thursday summoned by a Delhi court on complaints seeking their prosecution for turning hostile in the Jessica Lall murder case.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vidya Prakash summoned Munshi and Prem Kumar Manocha for December 18 after taking cognizance of the complaint filed by the Delhi High Court registrar on the basis of the March 22 high court order directing their prosecution for perjury.

"After considering averments made in the criminal complaint filed under section 340 CrPC (relating to lying on oath)...I take cognizance in the matter," the magistrate said.

"...Having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case as well as the material available on record, court is of the view that there is sufficient ground to summon the accused in the case. Accordingly accused be summoned for December 18," he added.

Munshi, who was led as primary witness of prosecution in the case, and Manocha are accused of lying on oath during trial before the sessions court and introducing the "two-gun theory", which was the primary defence taken by the convicts.

The high court registrar had filed two separate complaints against them in September.

Seeking Munshi`s prosecution under section 193 IPC (giving false evidence in judicial proceedings), the complaint said, "This change of statement by him was to clearly align himself with a defence taken by accused in trial that there were two persons at the spot with firearms and that the two shots had been fired from separate firearms.

"The evidence of accused Shayan Munshi was on a material and critical position of the case."

The complaint said the trial court had acquitted the accused saying from statements of Munshi and Manocha it cannot be said that the two shots were fired from the same firearm.

Munshi was at the bar counter when Lall was shot dead on intervening night of April 29-30, 1999 by Manu Sharma, son of Haryana Congress leader Venod Sharma after she refused to serve him a drink at a late night party at socialite Bina Ramani`s restaurant Tamarind Court here in South Delhi.

It was on Munshi`s statement describing Sharma and the incident that police had lodged an FIR but he later retracted as he deposed in the court that the shot which hit Lall was fired by some other person.

Munshi had also disowned his statement saying it was recorded in Hindi even as he did not know the language.

Regarding Manocha, who was the Deputy Director, State Forensic Science Laboratory, Rajasthan, the complaint said he also changed his stance to "align himself" with the defence taken by the accused persons, whose acquittal by the trial court was later set aside by the high court.

The two cartridges recovered from the spot were sent for ballistic opinion. Manocha had earlier said that no definite opinion can be given on them unless suspected firearm is available for examination. However, during trial, he changed his stand and deposed that inspection of the two cartridges reveal that they were were not fired from the same firearm.

The complaints said Munshi`s statement was recorded in the sessions court on May 3 and 4, 2006 and he was "legally bound to state the truth. He intentionally gave false statement for trying to shield the accused from punishment and as such is liable to be punished under section 193 IPC".

Munshi`s statement was recorded by Sub-Inspector Sunil Kumar after Bina Ramani told him that Munshi was present at the bar counter at the time of the incident and knew everything that transpired.

In his initial statement, Munshi stated how a stout, round-faced person wearing white T-shirt, aged 30-32 years came at the counter and asked for two drinks but was told by Lall and designer Malani Ramani that the party was over.

At this, he had narrated, that Sharma took out a revolver and fired one shot at the ceiling and second shot at the victim which hit her over her left eye.

Photographs of accused persons were sent to Shayan and he identified Sharma as the man who had fired the shots.

His two statements were recorded and signed by him.

However, during the trial before the sessions court, Munshi, who was led as an eyewitness, did a U-turn and stated that he had specified that person wearing white T-shirt fired a shot at the ceiling while another person standing at the other side of the counter fired at the victim.

"This was the first time that the two-gun theory was introduced in course of investigation and formed the basis of primary defence taken by the prime accused," the complaint said.

The complaint also said that during his cross-examination, Munshi told the court that he had narrated everything to the police in English and was not familiar with Hindi.

"Stand taken by accused Shayan Munshi is false since during investigation he did not ask for translation of FIR or refused to sign it...," it said, adding Munshi was speaking in Hindi while narrating the incident.

It also noted that at the time of deposition in the court, Munshi was accompanied by an advocate citing personal safety and the same advocate later appeared as proxy counsel for Manu Sharma during trial on March 6, 2000.

"Shayan Munshi made such false statement in order that such statement may cause judge to take erroneous opinion," it said.

The complaint also said it is "clearly an attempt to strike a blow at rule of law and such conduct, which has a tendency to shake public confidence in judicial institutions cannot be ignored.

"It would be a great public disaster if the fountain of justice is allowed to be poisoned by anyone making such practice which encourages public to act contrary to law."

The prosecution had urged the high court to refer 19 out of the 31 hostile witnesses, including Munshi, to the magisterial court for their trial on charges of perjury.

The high court had in December 2006 issued notices to Munshi and Manocha to show cause as to why action be not taken against them for perjury.

After enquiry, the high court, on May 22, ordered that they be tried for perjury.