Kerala actors sexual assault: Why survivor thinks the case is getting torpedoed
According to the petition, the trial judge did not communicate about the tampering of the memory card to the prosecution. Pic: iStock image for representational purpose only

Kerala actor's sexual assault: Why survivor thinks the case is getting torpedoed

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The 2017 Kerala actress sexual assault case has taken yet another turn as the survivor recently moved a writ petition in the Kerala high court, making serious allegations not just against the government, but also against the trial court judge. The petition talks extensively about tampering with crucial evidence in the case – a memory card.

It is all part of a deliberate attempt to sabotage the entire case, said the survivor, who has been compelled to move the court now, as the extended time provided for further investigation of the case comes to an end on May 30. In her petition, the survivor has also requested the court to direct the authorities not to wind up the investigation in an incomplete manner and submit the charge-sheet.

Tampering with crucial evidence in the case

One of the key points made in the writ petition involves the tampering of crucial evidence in the case – the memory card, which allegedly contains the visuals of the sexual assault on the survivor. It was seized and kept in the safe custody of the court but the state forensic laboratory at Thiruvananthapuram had found that it had been tampered with. Though this was reported to the trial court from the Forensic Lab, the trial judge failed to take any further action on the same; neither did the trial judge enter the receipt of the report in the index registry.

Detailing the sequence of events, the petition said on January 10, 2020, the joint director of State Forensic Science Laboratory (SFSL) at Thiruvananthapuram called the investigating officer in the case and informed that the memory card’s hash value had been changed.  [A hash value is a number that is often represented as a sequence of characters and is produced by an algorithm based upon the digital contents of a drive, medium, or file.]

According to an IT expert, the hash value of a video changes only when it is edited or tampered with.

A report on the same was sent directly to the trial judge on January 29, 2020. A CD containing the visuals was also submitted along with the report. “There was no entry made in the index register regarding the receipt of that report in the court and this fact was not informed to the clerk in charge of the index section”, said the petition.

The survivor further alleged the trial judge not only held it back without entering the same in the index register, but also did not pass the information of the receipt of such a report to the investigating officer or public prosecutor or the de facto complainant (the survivor) or anybody connected with the case.

Also read: Dileep case: Survivor moves HC alleging political pressure to dilute case

“Even though the very serious issue regarding the change of hash value of the memory card while it was in the custody of the court is reported to the trial judge, the judge kept it secret without any further proceedings or creating any official records as to the receipt of the same,” said the petition, adding that the trial judge did not report the matter to the high court as well for further actions.

This crucial information and the tampering of the memory card was “intentionally suppressed by the trial court to save the culprits behind the crime of illegal access of the card resulting in a change of hash value”, pointed out the petition.

The investigating officer requested the SFSL joint director to get a copy of the report on the change in hash value, but his request was turned down. However, the cops went ahead using their powers under the relevant sections of CrPC and seized the report copy and recorded the joint director’s statement. It was clearly found that the last access to the memory card was on December 13, 2018.

The expert confirmed that any change in the hash value does not happen if someone merely views or even copies the same, but it will change only if it is tampered with.

Allegations against trial judge

The trial of the case started on January 30, 2020 and the witnesses were examined. The trial judge did not communicate about the tampering with the memory card to the prosecution. Neither did the trial judge take any action to find out who was responsible though it affects the survivor’s case and her privacy.

The investigating officer filed a petition before the trial court on April 4, 2022 to send the memory card to the Forensic Science Lab for further examination to find two things; whether any folder of the memory card was accessed after February 18, 2017 and to furnish a copy of the file properties of all the files and folders of the memory card. It is submitted by the prosecution that an investigation into the change in hash value is highly necessary for the case.

No step was taken by the trial judge on this application and this request was not forwarded to the SFSL authorities till today.

Also read: 3 main reasons for which prosecution wants Malayalam star Dileep’s bail cancelled

The survivor was attacked and sexually assaulted on February 17, while on her way back to Ernakulam from Thrissur after shooting for a film. The mobile phone used for shooting the alleged sexual assault and the memory card to which it was copied were in the possession of the prime accused in the case, Sunil Kumar aka pulsar Suni. On the same day, his photographs appeared all over the media and he surrendered before advocate Poulose, a lawyer at Ernakulam and handed over the memory card to him.

Advocate Poulose who took his ‘vakalath’ and appeared as his defence lawyer surrendered all the material to the magistrate court, which included the memory card containing the visuals of the assault. The same was seized by the police for investigation and was sent to the Forensic Science Lab at Thiruvananthapuram. On February 27, the FSL examined the memory card, assigned the hash value and took two cloned copies, which were sent to the magistrate court and to the investigating officer.

As the memory card was sealed, the hash value as of February 27, 2017, should not have been changed thereafter. However, in the examinations conducted later, it was found that the memory card was accessed (on December 13, 2018), while it was kept under the safe custody of the court.

Advocate T B Mini, who appeared for the survivor in the High Court, told The Federal that this is a clear case of tampering with the evidence. “On February 27, 2017, the FSL took two cloned copies of the video and handed it over to the investigating team as well as to the court. This is sufficient for the purpose of the case in the stage of trial. There is no need to touch the original memory card which was kept in the custody of the court thereafter. Then how did the hash value change? This case will not go ahead without resolving this mystery,” said advocate Mini.

Allegations raised in the petition 

The prosecution has already raised the allegation that Dileep’s advocates have interfered in the administration of justice by aiding him to tamper with the evidence. Though the investigating team has made all efforts to investigate the role of the advocates, they could not succeed because the senior counsel (Adv Raman Pillai) and his associates reportedly have substantial influence with the ruling government. “It is learned that some assurances were secured by the advocates from the political authorities that the investigation will not reach them,” stated the petition.

It is alleged that Dileep, the actor and the 8th accused in the case ‘who is highly influential has unlawfully influenced some of the politicians in the ruling front’.  The petition said, “The government of Kerala that gave support to the victim and allowed a fair investigation in the case in the initial stages took credit of the same but backtracked from its constitutional obligation to conduct a free, fair and complete investigation in the case”.

According to the petition, Dileep tried to prematurely close the same. “It is really learned that the prosecution, as well as the investigation agency, are now threatened by the political higher-ups to end up the investigation half the way and to file the additional final report in a half-cooked manner. This clearly established the nexus between the accused and the ruling front,” stated the petition, submitted by the survivor.

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