Indian Court Sentences Politician's Son

The Associated Press
Wednesday, December 20, 2006; 2:37 AM

NEW DELHI -- A wealthy Indian politician's son was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for killing a waitress a who refused to serve him a drink, case that provoked protests demanding the judiciary be tough on powerful people.

The New Delhi High Court handed down the sentence a day after convicting Manu Sharma, 31, of shooting Jessica Lall in 1999. A lower court had acquitted Sharma earlier this year, but several days of protests forced authorities to reopen the investigation.

"There's a certain amount of closure now," the victim's sister, Sabrina Lall, told reporters outside the courtroom. "We've all been waiting and it's finally done."

Lall, a former model, had refused to serve Sharma a drink at an upscale New Delhi bar because it was closing time. Dozens of people witnessed the killing, but most recanted their testimony as the case moved through the courts.

Sharma is the son of an influential politician with business interests in sugar mills.

The High Court also convicted two of Sharma's friends of destroying evidence and helping him escape.

India's courts are notoriously slow and open to bribery. Cases can take decades to resolve, and the powerful seldom face prosecution.

© 2006 The Associated Press