Applause greeted the Supreme Court’s ruling that Manu Sharma should spend the rest of his life in prison. The man was a cold-blooded killer. His victim’s only fault was that she declined to pour him a drink after the bar had closed. Annoyed, he shot Jessica Lal pointblank and swaggered out.
This is where the Supreme Court’s incidental observations in the Jessica Lal murder case call for close attention. It said, among other things, that “trial by media… had the effect of interfering with the administration of justice”. The remark was occasioned by Sharma’s lawyer Ram Jethmalani’s complaint that his client had faced trial by media. In his enthusiasm for his client, Jethmalani lost sight of the fact that, for once, “trial by media” achieved something good, beyond anything he could have achieved.