The Kerala High Court on Monday, February 7, said that the charges against Dileep, and the material submitted to the court so far, are not enough to warrant denying the accused actor pre-arrest bail. Justice P Gopinath allowed the anticipatory bail plea filed by Dileep and two others in the new conspiracy case, however, he imposed conditions that the accused have to follow, failing which the police can seek cancellation of bail or arrest. It is to be noted that Dileep has been granted pre-arrest bail in the new case filed against him on January 9 ‚ÄĒ where he has been accused of allegedly conspiring to kill the investigating officers probing the 2017 actor abduction and sexual assault case.
Dileep, his brother Anoop, and brother-in-law TN Suraj were granted pre-arrest bail against a Rs 1 lakh bond each. The High Court has said that Dileep and the others have to appear before the investigating officials and have to cooperate with the probe. They are forbidden from tampering with evidence, influencing witnesses, and they have to surrender their passports. Dileep and the two others cannot be involved in any other crime while on bail, and if any of these conditions are violated, the police can file an application before the High Court for cancellation of bail.
The court made several observations while granting Dileep pre-arrest bail ‚ÄĒ but clarified that these are merely observations for the bail application and should not be considered as findings or conclusions.
On the charge of conspiracy
Justice P Gopinath of the Kerala High Court referred to previous court judgments to note that a mere combination of people, or merely an agreement between them, is not enough to attract the charge of conspiracy. ‚ÄúSome act or illegal omission must take place in pursuance of the conspiracy and in order to the doing of the thing conspired,‚ÄĚ the HC said.
The High Court said that ‚Äúthere is nothing to suggest, at present, that the accused had done something or some act in respect of which an offence of abetment can be alleged‚Ä¶There is no material to suggest that an act or illegal omission had occurred for the accused in this case to be charged with an offence of abetment of that act or omission.‚ÄĚ And added that for the purpose of this bail application, charges of conspiracy cannot be imposed.
‚ÄúI am of the opinion, prima facie, that at present, there is no material to suggest that the accused had committed the offence of criminal conspiracy,‚ÄĚ the court said.
On charges of criminal intimidation
The court also noted Dileep's alleged threat to Deputy Superintendent Baiju Poulose, where he is believed to have said, ‚Äúyou are living peacefully with the family, right sir?‚ÄĚ cannot be termed as criminal intimidation for two reasons. One, because the case was ‚Äúpending at committal stage‚ÄĚ before the Judicial First Class Magistrate Court, Angamaly. This means that the case was still before the Magistrate, and since the comment was made before Sessions Court, it cannot be viewed as a threat or intimidation. Secondly, what the accused said cannot be termed as "threat or intimidation" under Section 506 of the Indian Penal Code.
Not producing one phone is not non-cooperation
On the Kerala police‚Äôs argument that Dileep should not be given bail since he has not been cooperating with the probe, Justice Gopinath said that just the submission that one of Dileep‚Äôs phones ‚ÄĒ which the police said is non-traceable ‚ÄĒ was not produced, is not enough to prove that Dileep is not cooperating with the investigation. The judge added that he is of the opinion that even if Dileep is given bail, the police can always move the court to cancel his bail or seek arrest.
‚ÄúThe non-production of one phone which is now stated to be non-traceable by itself does not compel me to hold that the same amounts to non-cooperation with the investigation. Even according to the prosecution the said phone was used for 221 days about 5 months ago,‚ÄĚ the High Court said.
The HC also noted the Kerala police‚Äôs submission that a former employee of Dileep had been intimidated or influenced after being questioned by the police, and said though influencing or intimidating witnesses is a real apprehension, this can be dealt with by imposing conditions. The HC said that even though Dileep gets anticipatory bail, it can be assumed that the police have ‚Äėdeemed‚Äô or ‚Äėlimited custody‚Äô for investigation, and the investigation can be properly conducted without the custody of the accused. The judge quoted previous judgments to state that granting anticipatory bail does not limit the investigative powers of the police.
‚ÄėMedia cannot abuse justice delivery system‚Äô
The High Court also made a comment on the media coverage of the case. Justice Gopinath noted that this case has generated a lot of media attention and there has been a lot of commentary on the hearing of Dileep‚Äôs pre-arrest bail plea. The court noted that though a free and independent press is essential to democracy, and courts have upheld media‚Äôs right to speech, that cannot be a license to ‚Äúabuse the justice delivery system‚ÄĚ.
‚ÄúObservations made in Court during the course of hearing have been dissected and made subject matter of intense discussion. The existence of a vibrant, independent and free press is no doubt essential to democracy. The constitutional Courts in this country have been zealous to protect the freedom of speech and expression but this cannot be a license for persons armed with half baked facts with little or no knowledge of how the judiciary functions and little or no knowledge of the fundamental legal principles that govern it, abuse the justice delivery system,‚ÄĚ the High Court observed.