A model working extra, by serving as a bartender, in one of the exquisite places in Delhi that was filled with the glittering crowd of the state, was shot dead point blank. She was shot because she refused to serve alcohol after the foresaid hours, and succumbed to great cruelty that often comes with power of the corrupt.
Many witnessed the crime, yet got cold feet when the time came to testify. The incident happened in April 29’1999, and in 2006, all the guilty were acquitted of all charges. It was the uproar created by the media, highlighting the unfair judgment, which led to the arrest of the main accused 25 days later, post the acquittal.
Immediately after the killing, the police identified the murderer as Manu Sharma, son of Venod Sharma, a wealthy and influential Congress-nominated Member of Parliament from Haryana. With the presence of various eye-witnesses, it was an open and shut case.
However, the twist arrived in the form of the witnesses, who turned shaky right before the trial began. Obviously, turning the case weak against the main accused Manu Sharma, and his two accomplices, Vikas Yadav and Amardeep Singh, who also belonged to affluent families.
As usual, when a kin of a political leader is associated with crime, the matter is shoddily investigated. In 1999, Manu Sharma was charged with murder, while his friends were charged of harboring criminal suspects. Seven years after this case was opened, all the accused including Manu Sharma were acquitted of all charges.
This acquittal created the biggest uproar our country has ever seen. There were protests by thousands in different places of the country, candle marches were held, and people were using every medium to voice the unfair judgment.
Jessica Lal case is one of the brightest and legitimate example of ‘trial by media’, which has gone forth to invoke justice. Sabrina Lal, sister of Jessica Lal, was distraught when the accused were not found guilty, and in desperation to bring her sister’s death to justice, she knocked on the door of the media.
It was the determination of the media that highlighted the loopholes of the case, finally bringing justice to family. Due to the constant adherence of the media towards the case, Manu Sharma was sentenced to life imprisonment on 20 December, 2006.
Media is one of the four pillars that uphold democracy, and with the outcome of this case, media proved to be a strong house that could be labelled as ‘harbingers of justice’.
So many years after the case, has much changed in the judicial process of our country? Is justice still served in favor of ‘influential class’? Are we doing enough to protect our witnesses who are as prone to threats as the judiciary is to the smell of money?
Even today, it is difficult to say what was more shocking. Was it the reason for which a woman lost her life, or was it because her killers almost walked away scot-free, post the courtesy of the honorable judgment of our country?