Onkar Singh in New Delhi
Malini Ramani, one of the key witnesses in the Jessica Lal murder case, on Wednesday categorically identified prime accused Manu Sharma as the guest who had asked for drinks after the bar had closed on the night of April 29, 1999, at her restaurant, Tamarind Court.
Sharma is accused of shooting Jessica Lal dead when she refused to serve him and his friends drinks.
Ramani is one of two witnesses to have stood by their statements to the police.
Malini, daughter of socialite Bina Ramani, said the party that day was a farewell party for her stepfather, who was going abroad for six months. She told the court that she was a fashion designer by profession and had known Jessica Lal for almost 10 years.
She told Judge H R Malhotra at the Patiala House Court that four or five men walked in after the bar had closed on April 29. "He [Sharma] was wearing a white T-shirt and jeans," she said.
Asked by the prosecutor what happened next, she said, "He asked for drinks. I told him that the bar was closed. He said that he would pay cash. I said it did not matter. Then he said that he would pay Rs 1000 for a drink. I told him that the bar was closed. Then he made a comment that "I could have a sip of you for Rs 1000," Malini Ramani told the crowded court.
Could you identify that man, the prosecutor asked.
"Yes, I can," she said and pointed to Manu Sharma. "The man who asked for drinks looked like him," she said.
"Are you sure?"
"Absolutely," she said.
"What did you do then?"
"I was irritated by the comment and left the Tamarind Court and went towards the courtyard where I crossed my mother," she said.
Earlier, she said that Jessica was wearing denim shorts and a white shirt and serving liquor to guests on payment along with another model, Shyan Munshi.
"I had hardly gone out for a minute or two when Shyan ran towards me screaming Jessica had been shot. I passed out and fainted. It was only at 6 in the morning when I came to know from my mother that
Jessica was dead. I was told this on phone," Ramani told the court.
She said she had gone to the café [Tamarind Court] to look for something to eat and drink when Sharma and his friends entered the restaurant.
In the course of her cross-examination by Sharma's counsel R K Naseem, Malini said the Ramanis had been hosting Thursday parties for seven or eight weeks before the incident.
"When we started holding parties at the Tamarind Court, the basic idea was to invite friends and have fun. But then the word spread and more and more people started coming to the parties. Later, it grew out of hand and anyone could walk in," she said when asked how long the parties had been organised before April 29, which was also a Thursday.
"Do you drink?"
"Yes, I had one drink that day," she replied.
"How many people were present after 1.45am that day?"
"Approximately 35 to 40 people."
"Were they drinking?"
"Some of them could be drinking."
Malini Ramani's cross-examination will continue on Friday.
Earlier, four witnesses had turned hostile in the case. Munshi, Karan Rajput and Shivdas Yadav had categorically denied having seen Manu Sharma shoot Jessica Lal after she refused to serve him and his friends while Parikshit Sagar, who was examined by the court on Wednesday, said he had left the place before the incident.
Before the start of proceedings on Thursday, Judge Malhotra took strong exception to the manner in which one of the accused, Vikas Yadav, had been photographed.
Yadav's picture was printed in a leading national daily on Thursday morning. "If he is so fond of getting himself photographed then he should go to the studio," the angry judge remarked.
This is the second time the judge has reprimanded Yadav for his pictures.
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Vikas Yadav continues to dodge police
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Manu Sharma sent to police custody for 5 days
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Families are dying out, and we need to give youngsters hope -- Dr Achal Bhagat
Journalists just hate anyone like me who is prominent -- Bina Ramani
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