Kerala actor assault: HC defers hearing after govt points to lapses of trial judge

Survivor requests transfer of case to new court; state government affidavit alleges trial court skipped vital statements against accused actor Dileep, mutely watched survivor being grilled by defence lawyer about the assault

sexual assault, The Federal, English news website
The actress in 2017 was allegedly assaulted in her car by several men, allegedly sent by actor Dileep. Photo for representational purpose only: iStock

The Kerala High Court on Monday (November 2) deferred the trial proceedings into the abduction and rape case of an actress, till Friday (November 6).

The order came on petitions filed by the survivor, requesting transfer of the case out of the Additional Sessions (CBI special No III) court in Ernakulam.

The special public prosecutor, representing the state government, in a affidavit raised serious allegations against the trial court.

It has been alleged that the trial court has committed serious lapses in recording many crucial statements including that of the victim during the hearings.

Related news: Kerala court junks actor Dileep’s discharge petition

One of the accused in the case is Malayalam actor Dileep who is being tried for orchestrating the abduction and sexual assault of a female colleague in February 2017.

The state government’s affidavit also alleges that the trial court failed to record a very crucial statement by Dileep’s former wife Manju Warrior –their daughter had requested her not to depose against her father. The statement which testifies how Dileep tried to influence witnesses, went unrecorded by the trial court.

The affidavit filed by the state government (of which The Federal accessed a copy) says the trial court declined to record the survivor’s statement that actor Dileep, the eight accused in the case had threatened to ‘burn her alive as she had destroyed his family life’ in a conversation with another actress Bhama. The survivor has stated in the court that Bhama had told her this. The trial court refused to record this statement too.

“Despite the specific request of the special public prosecutor to record the same and that it needs to be recorded for the purpose of corroboration, the court refused to record it. The further statement regarding the reason why the victim had knowledge with respect to the involvement of Dileep in the crime also was not recorded,” the affidavit stated. (Bhama who was a crucial witness in the case reportedly turned hostile later. She reportedly deposed in favor of the accused).

It is also alleged that the trial court failed in recording another crucial testimony against Dileep by his former wife Manju Warrior. Paragraph F of the affidavit states, “On 27.02.2020, when Manju Warrior, the former wife of the 8th accused (Dileep) was cross examined, questions were put forward for her character assassination. There were questions which were of the nature that she has not contacted her daughter for years. In re-examination, the special public prosecutor asked when she contacted her daughter last. She deposed her that her daughter contacted her over phone on 24.02.2020 and requested not to depose anything against her father (Dileep). She also deposed that she is duty bound to depose the truth before the court and that she would depose only the truth. This factum of disclosure was not recorded by the presiding officer stating that such a statement in reexamination is in admissible. The request of the special public prosecutor to record the same was refused by the court.”

There are other serious allegations with regard to the conduct of the judge while cross examining the survivor.

Paragraph D of the affidavit says the victim was put under duress to answer the same questions framed by the counsel in different ways.

“The victim felt humiliated and the victim was under pressure to answer questions put forward by the counsel for the 8th accused (Dileep) without any clarification. The victim was constantly under pressure and humiliation in court by the repeated questions in different ways even after giving proper answer. Repeating a single question in different ways in different points and compelling the victim to answer accordingly was seen from the very beginning of the cross examination. The victim was examined in the court for 13 days during which the counsel for the 8th accused (Dileep) alone cross examined the victim for 9 days,” the affidavit read.

It was alleged that the court remained a mute spectator during the hard grilling cross examination by the defence lawyer.

Paragraph E of the affidavit said, “The trial court failed to record the demeanour of the witnesses. Recording of the demeanour of the witness is highly important in a criminal case of this nature. The victim herself was narrating the acts of sexual violence committed upon her by identifying the visuals recorded by the first accused (Sunilkumar aka Pulsar Suni). The ordeal of the victim in watching and identifying the visuals itself is a crucification and second victimization. Even though, it was an in-camera proceeding, the advocates for the accused were present among which 8 of them were there for Dileep which also was objected by the prosecutor.”

Related news: Centre issues advisory to states, UTs on law against sexual assault on women

The state government also alleged that the request for adjournment of cross examination of a witness by Dileep was allowed with no reason. Despite the prosecution’s argument that the adjournment was sought only to buy time to influence the witness, it was ignored by the court.

A gag on media was imposed by the trial court at the request of Dileep a few months ago. Although many witnesses turned hostile and there were allegations that many of them were under pressure and influence exerted by Dileep, the media is highly restrained from reporting due to this gag order.

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