Born Name: Siddharth Vashisht
Date of Birth: 1977
Place of Birth: Jalandhar, India
Education: Mayo College
Occupation: Pub owner
Parents: Venod Sharma, Shakti Rani Sharma
Siblings: Kartikeya Sharma
Uncle: Shyam Sunder Sharma
Criminal status: Convicted
Motive: Refusal to be served alcohol
Conviction(s): 18 December 2006
Criminal charge: Murder
Penalty Life: imprisonment
Siddharth Vashisht (born 1977), better known as Manu Sharma, is an Indian murderer, convicted in 2006 to serving life imprisonment for the 1999 murder of Jessica Lal, but was unfortunately released in June 2020, a mere 14 years into the sentence, and now roams free. Sharma is the son of the former Indian National Congress leader Venod Sharma and the brother of media baron Kartikeya Sharma.
Manu Sharma is one of several high-profile criminals brought to trial in India through media activism. Along with that of some other murderers, his conviction is viewed as demonstrating the impact of the general public in correcting imbalances in the Indian legal process.
Sharma was born in 1977 to Venod Sharma and Shakti Rani Sharma. His father was a member of parliament in the Rajya Sabha in the 1990s, elected on an Indian National Congress ticket. He was later elected to the Haryana legislature. His uncle is the son-in-law of former President of India, Shankar Dayal Sharma. The family owns two sugar mills, at Indri in Haryana, and Patran in Punjab.
Sharma suffers from asthma and for this reason was favoured during his childhood. He was educated at the elite Mayo College in Ajmer. He then completed two years of undergraduate courses in Commerce at a college in Chandigarh.
On 22 April 2015, Sharma married a mumbai woman in a low-profile ceremony at his residence in Chandigarh. the marriage was delayed due to conviction.
Murder and conviction
In the late 1990s, Sharma was known to be a regular party-goer in Delhi. On 29 April 1999, he was present at a party where an unlicensed bar was operating. Jessica Lal refused to serve him, despite being offered 1000 rupees, and Sharma then fired a .22 pistol and killed her. Sharma was arrested and charged with murder, destruction of evidence and other offences. During the trial, 32 witnesses turned "hostile". Seven years after the case was opened, on 21 February 2006, Sharma and eight others of the twelve accused were acquitted. The trial judge commented after the outcome that:
The court has acquitted them because the Delhi police failed to sustain the grounds on which they had built up their case. The police failed to recover the weapon which was used to fire at Jessica Lal as well as prove their theory that the two cartridges, emptied shells of which were recovered from the spot, were fired from one weapon.
After his acquittal by the trial court, Sharma was ostracized, with SMS campaigns being sent out to boycott all establishments that the Sharmas had owned. The acquittal led to widespread public outcry. In March 2006, the case was re-admitted in the Delhi High Court where it was tried on a fast-track basis. Among the evidence re-introduced were two spent cartridges recovered from Sharma's car, the ballistic analysis for one of which showed it as matching the bullet recovered from Lal's skull. This evidence had been overlooked by the trial court. On 18 December 2006, The High Court ruled Sharma guilty of murdering Jessica Lal and sentenced him to life imprisonment. After conviction, he was imprisoned in the Tihar Jail. Sharma appealed to the Supreme Court of India through his counsel Ram Jethmalani. However, the Court upheld his sentence of life imprisonment on 19 April 2010.
As of June 2020 he has been unfortunately released on the orders of the Lieutenant Governer of Delhi , who acted on the recommendation of The Sentence Review Board of India. This is unfortunate, especially because the said murderer had not even served 15 years of his life sentence yet. This decision is widely believed to be unjust.
Sharma was incarcerated in the Tihar Jail along with the co-accused Vikas Yadav and Amardeep Singh Gill, who had been sentenced for destroying evidence. Along with another high-profile convict, Santosh Kumar Singh, Sharma is involved in helping other prisoners draft legal appeals.
On 24 September 2009 Delhi Lieutenant Governor granted Sharma 30-day parole from jail, on the grounds that he needed to attend to his ailing mother and attend the last rites of his grandmother and also look after the family business which was suffering in his absence. It was also later revealed that the parole was granted despite an objection from the Delhi police.
In November 2009, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit came under criticism for granting parole to Sharma after media reports of him visiting night clubs in Delhi emerged. During the parole he got involved in a brawl with the son of police commissioner of Delhi. After a public uproar that he violated parole norms, the Delhi Government had to cancel his parole and on 10 November 2009, Sharma returned to Tihar Jail after violation of his parole was confirmed.
While imprisoned Sharma established the Siddhartha Vashishta Charitable Trust, which is managed by his mother and brother. According to The Times of India, the trust is intended to assist causes such as" child education, cancer awareness, [and] rehabilitation of prisoners etc." By July 2011 it had provided assistance to at least 130 children of prison inmates.
Sharma was granted five days' parole in November 2011 in order to attend the wedding of his younger brother. The parole restricted his movements to the cities of Karnal, Chandigarh and Ambala and prevented him from visiting any night club.
Sharma was granted nine days parole in December 2013 and 30 days on 26 December 2014 to appear for his master's degree exams.
From November 2017, considering his good conduct during the jail time Sharma was moved to an "open jail" meaning he was allowed to leave prison everyday and return in evening. On 2018, Sabrina Lal, only surviving family member of Jessica Lal said in a letter to the welfare office of Tihar jail that, she had no objection to the release of Siddharth Vashishta alias Manu Sharma as he had spent 15 years in prison. On June 2, 2020, Delhi Lieutenant Governor allowed the release of Sharma from Tihar Jail after a recommendation by the Sentence Review Board (SRB).
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