SC absolves ballistic expert in Jessica Lal case

SC absolves ballistic expert in Jessica Lal case

The Supreme Court has let off a ballistic expert, facing a perjury charge in the 1999 Jessica Lal murder case, for deposing that two cartridges recovered from the spot may have been fired from two different weapons.

His opinion, along with others witness' volte-face, had led to the acquittal of Manu Sharma, son of senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Venod Sharma in 2006, triggering huge outcry. 

The HC, however, took suo motu cognisance of a group of witnesses in the model murder case making somersault to help the accused.

 It had in 2006 directed for initiating criminal proceedings against them.
The HC had also reversed the acquittal of Sharma and awarded him life term. This verdict was upheld by the apex court in 2010.

On an appeal by ballistic expert Prem Sagar Manocha, then working with Rajasthan’s forensic science lab, against the HC’s direction for prosecution, a bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice Kurian Joseph noted that there was no somersault or shift in his stand taken during the oral examination before trial court.

“Merely because an expert has tendered an opinion while also furnishing the basis of the opinion and that too without being conclusive and definite, it cannot be said that he has committed perjury so as to help somebody. And, mere rejection of the expert evidence by itself may not also warrant initiation of proceedings,” the bench said.

The court also noted that it was nobody’s case that scientifically an expert can give a definite opinion by only examining the cartridges as to whether they have been fired from the same firearm.

“It was the trial court which insisted for an opinion without the presence of the firearm, and in that context only, the appellant gave the non-specific and indefinite opinion. An expert, in such a situation could not probably have given a different opinion,” the bench said, noting the firearm allegedly used was never recovered in the case.

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