Trial by media is a term that gained popularity in the late 20th and early 21st centuries to characterize how media coverage, particularly on television and in newspapers, can damage someone’s reputation by fostering a generalized sense of guilt independent of a court’s decision. Every democratic nation has a contentious discussion between proponents of an unrestricted free press and others who believe that a person’s right to privacy and a fair trial should come first.

Sidhartha vashisht Alias manu sharma  vs State (NCT of Delhi) 

Citation: (2010) 6 SCC 1; (2010) 2 SCC (cri) 1385


The murder of Jessica Lal is one of the most well-known murder cases. This tragedy has always left me wondering how callous someone can be to shoot an innocent girl out of the blue for merely refusing to provide him with the drink of his choosing. It gave us hope that justice is still served, regardless of the identity of the accused. It forced us to acknowledge that justice may not always be served right away but that it will eventually. The media was quite influential in this case. Jessica’s case marked the start of an impartial media that spearheaded a nationwide justice campaign. 

Similar to how a coin always has two sides, media also has two sides. The media occasionally exaggerates stories, and these days, their main concern is TRP and maximizing profits by selling news that has been spiced up with a little spice. However, in this well-known murder case, it turned out to be advantageous and gave us confidence in both our legal system and ourselves. Reminisce about the times when we loved the media and how it helped us restore our faith in the system.


April 29, 1999 is the date the incident occurred. Miss Bina Ramani, a Delhi resident, was hosting a party at the Tamarind Court restaurant in Mehrauli, Delhi. with a projected 300 guests on the guest list. Jessica was brought in to serve as the party’s model bartender. She and her friend Shayan Munshi were carrying out their duties. 

 Among those 300 individuals was Manu Sharma, a politician’s son who attended the celebration with his pals. They went to the bar counter since they both needed drinks, and when they saw Jessica there, they requested her to get him one. But at that time bar was closed and she refused to serve them a drink. Manu begged Jessica for RS.1,000 since he was so desperate for his cocktails, but she turned him down. Manu became angry when he didn’t get his drink, so he pulled out his gun and pointed it directly at her.

Like in a horrible dream, he shot his first round to menace her from the ceiling, then his second bullet at point blank range. in her brain in front of her colleague bartender. When this haughty VVIP brat refused to give her a glass of booze, a woman was shot and killed. Manu quickly made his way out of the scene with his pals. Everyone went into a panic. The majority of them witnessed the accused fleeing. Jessica was promptly brought to the hospital. The event was reported to Jessica’s sister. She was in shock at what had happened to her sister. The two sisters were quite close to one another. A few hours later, Jessica was declared deceased. 

Sadly, none of the approximately 300 guests who attended the party volunteered to serve as witnesses. Manu Sharma was widely believed to be the guilty party, but no one was prepared to come forward and testify. Thankfully, a few others expressed their desire to testify as witnesses in the case. Manu Sharma was placed in the custody of the police. Manu first admitted to his murder during the police investigation, but it was later thrown out for a procedural inconsistency. Every witness was becoming hostile, one by one. A few were bought off, while others faced lifelong threats. Jessica’s sister, Sabrina, persisted in fighting this system because she wanted justice for her sister. 

A charge sheet was filed against the defendants on August 3rd, 1999. The Delhi Trial Court’s Sessions Judge declared him guilty on November 23, 2000. Manu Sharma was accused under Sections 302 and 201 r/w 120-B of the IPC, while Vikas Yadav, one of his companions, was charged under Sections 120 r/w 201 and Section 201 r/w Section 34 of the IPC. The suspects were freed because Delhi police were unable to establish a solid case because all of the witnesses had become hostile. The Delhi High Court cleared all nine on February 21, 2006, citing a dearth of evidence. People felt a great wave of disappointment as a result. Our courageous and altruistic media was well aware of the current circumstances and was committed to bringing about justice. 


Fearless periodicals such as Tehelka seized the chance to reveal the weaknesses in the system. The media conducted a Sting operation, exposing numerous witnesses and gathering evidence. Our media even captured Shayan Munshi’s furious outburst, which was shown on the news channel. He revealed everything about that horrific evening, including how the accused killed an innocent girl in retaliation for not getting him a drink. He informed the Honorable Court throughout the court proceedings that he was unable to speak Hindi and that he was unsure of the identity of the shooter. However, the sting turned out to be false. In this instance, the sting operation and message campaigns were really helpful.

 On March 13, 2006, an appeal was filed in Delhi High Court in response to strong public and media pressure. The proceedings were started on a fast track basis, with daily hearings spread over 25 days.


The Trial Court’s decisions differed from those of the High Court. Manu Sharma was found guilty by the court of killing Jessica Lal. He received a life sentence and a fine of Rs. 50000, while the other prisoners received a 4-year prison sentence and a fine of Rs. 3000. Everybody was involved in this case, not only the accused and the victim. Jessica’s sister Sabrina maintained optimism because she trusted our legal system.


Manu Sharma filed two Supreme Court appeals. On April 19, 2010, the Supreme Court affirmed the High Court’s conviction and sentence of life in prison. As per the ruling of the Supreme Court, the presumption of innocence of an accused individual is protected by law and should not be undermined throughout the media trial process or while the inquiry is ongoing.


Many times while he was incarcerated, he was given parole. He was initially granted 30 days of parole, which was then extended to an additional 30 days, so that he could visit his sick mother. He requested to take his tests, so they granted him another parole. He even participated in numerous philanthropic endeavors. In addition, he founded a nonprofit organization dedicated to prisoner rehabilitation. His behavior suggested that he was headed toward forgiveness. 


According to an official order, Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal allowed Manu Sharma’s early release from prison. Sharma is currently serving a life term related to a case. His parole from Tihar Jail was recommended last month by the Delhi government’s Sentence Review Board (SRB). Having served almost 17 years in jail, the 43-year-old was on release as part of national efforts to prevent overcrowding in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. On May 10, 2020, Manu Sharma was formally released from prison.

The LG office has clarified that it had concurred with the recommendations of the Sentence Review Board (SRB) on May 21st, as approved by the Delhi Home Minister Satyendar Kumar Jain to release 19 prisoners, including Siddharth Vashistha, aka Manu Sharma, as covered under the guidelines of the provisions of the CrPC and the prison rules.

He said in an interview after being released from prison that he had changed and that he would be appreciative of Sabrina Lal’s forgiveness. “In this period, he has been doing good work for charity and helping inmates in jail, which I feel is a reflection of reform,” Sabrina stated in one of the NDTV interviews.


Although we have seen a lot of cases, it is instances like this that give us faith in our legal system. It reassures us that justice, not condemnation, is always rendered by the court. In this instance, the media was crucial in ensuring the innocent people received justice. The accused was made to pay for his transgressions thanks to the courageous media and regular citizens. The candle march, message campaign, sting operation, and other protests all aided the case. It had a profound effect on people’s thoughts.

Everybody was deeply affected by this case because it felt so personal to them. Justice is served by courts, as everyone knows, but if one has the courage to speak up, as our fearless and brave journalists did, then nothing can stop us. At first, we were afraid of bias because this case had a political component. However, our legal system demonstrated the opposite. Justice may not always be served right away, but it will always be done.


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