The dramatic twists and turns in the actress-abduction-and-sexual assault case in Kerala would put any movie to shame.
Moreover, they raise questions over the accuracy of the investigation and the proficiency of the prosecution in conducting the trial, which has been going on since 2018.
The case pertains to Malayalam actor Dileep, who has been accused of being the mastermind behind the conspiracy to abduct and sexually assault a popular actress in February 2017. Apparently, the attack, in a moving car, was filmed so that the video could be used to blackmail the survivor.
Recent revelations by Balachandra Kumar, a director who claims to be a friend of Dileep, have further put in deep waters the prosecution and the state police, who have already faced embarrassing moments with witnesses turning hostile in trial court and the prosecutors quitting.
Kumar filed a petition to the Chief Minister with copies of audio clips of conversations allegedly between Dileep and others regarding the “video of the sexual assault on the actress”.
The director claims that he witnessed Dileep watching the video clip with his brother Anoop and a few others, along with the “VIP” who had brought the clip to his house. He told the media that he was too scared to disclose these details earlier and has now sought police protection for himself and his family after his revelations.
In yet another dramatic development, special public prosecutor in the case, VN Anilkumar, walked out of court during the trial. Sources in the court told The Federal that he quit his position as the court is “very unfriendly” to the prosecution.
Anilkumar, who has submitted his resignation to the state government and Director General for Prosecution TA Shaji, walked out as the court refused to entertain his plea for a deeper investigation into the case in the context of revelations made by director Kumar against Dileep.
With this move, Anilkumar has become the second public prosecutor to quit the case in the middle of trial. In November 2020, then special public prosecutor A Sureshan had also quit his post with the allegation that the court was biased against the prosecution.
The case has now become the first in India in which the prosecution has quit twice without completing trial.
Earlier in the case, the prosecution had pleaded for permission to bring certified copies related to the Call Detail Records (CDR) of the accused but the plea was dismissed by the trial court on December 21. Aggrieved by the order, the prosecution filed an appeal in the Kerala High Court which sent notices to the accused.
In this context, the allegations raised by Kumar further cast a shadow on the entire investigation process. In his petition to the CM, and in statements to the media thereafter, he claims to have seen Pulsar Suni – the first accused in this case – at Dileep’s home.
Suni is alleged to have abducted the actress and committed sexual assault and video-recorded the same, allegedly on the instructions of Dileep. Three weeks prior to the assault, Kumar says ‘Pulsar Suni’ was introduced to him by Dileep’s brother Anoop at Dileep’s home on December 26, 2016.
When the news of Suni’s arrest came in, Kumar says he tried to verify with Dileep whether Suni was the same person whom he had met at his place. Kumar alleges that initially Dileep denied having any acquaintance with him, but later agreed that he was the same person whom Kumar had met at his home. He further insisted that Kumar do not disclose the connection to anyone.
According to the complaint submitted to the CM, not only Dileep, but his wife and actress Kavya Madhavan, and Anoop also insisted several times that Kumar must not spill the beans. When Dileep was in jail, Kumar was told that any disclosures from his side would weaken Dileep’s chances of getting bail.
Dileep was arrested over the charges in July 2017 and released two months later on bail. The prosecution has also alleged that he intimidated two witnesses in the case to make statements in his favour.
Coming back to Kumar, he has only one answer to the most frequent question asked by the media -why did he not disclose such crucial things earlier?
Fear, he says, kept him mum. He was apparently scared of being attacked or killed.
Then why now?
“I am getting old, the victim should get justice, I am no more scared,” says Kumar.
He adds that though he was summoned by the police several times, he was never asked the “right questions” to which he would have given the “right answers”.
“The investigating officer did not ask me whether I knew Pulsar Suni. They also did not ask me whether I had met him. If I was asked those questions, I would have told them that I had met him at Dileep’s place,” says the director.
On whether further investigation is possible, advocate Kaleeswaram Raj, a senior lawyer at Kerala High Court, weighs in. “Further investigation in a criminal case in the last phase of trial is hard but not impossible. It depends on the facts and circumstances of the case. If the court is convinced there is sufficient room to allow further investigation, it can grant permission for the same,” he told The Federal.