Actor assault case
Actor Dileep, who is named the 8th accused in the case was not present in court on Thursday.

The Ernakulam CBI court which will hear the high profile case of a Malayalam actor being sexually assaulted in February 2017, has set April 5 as the date for the preliminary hearings to begin  Barring actor Dileep, who is named 8th accused in the case and is suspected to have masterminded the abduction and assault and another accused Charlie, the others were present before the CBI court on Thursday.

“Dileep and the other accused, Charlie, had submitted e-petitions stating that they would be unable to present themselves before the court. The other 8 accused were present on Thursday,” a source in the CBI court told TNM.

The CBI court has also ordered for all the accused to be present for the preliminary hearing on April 5. Following this, the course of the hearings will be decided, according to reports.

The case was shifted from the Ernakulam Principal Sessions court to the CBI court, following the Kerala High Court’s orders. The court ordered for this shift based on the survivor’s request for a woman judge to preside over the case. Accepting the plea, Kerala High Court Justice V Raja Vijayaraghavan announced in open court on February 25, 2019,  that special CBI judge Honey M Varghese will be hearing the case. Stating that the petition filed by the survivor is legitimate, the court observed that the law has a provision which allows a woman judge to hear her case.

Actor Dileep’s counsel had appeared before the court to challenge the matter, stating that the case cannot be given special consideration as several such cases in the country which are being heard by male judges. Dileep's counsel further requested for the trial to continue before the Principal Sessions Judge of Ernakulam. However, his argument was overruled.

On March 5, 2019, the High Court had also ordered for the trial to be completed within the next 6 months. The court further rejected a bail plea by the second accused - Martin - who was the survivor’s driver and asked for the trial to be expedited.

It is however, still unclear, if the trial can begin now as Dileep petition in the Supreme Court,  requesting to access visuals of the assault is pending. During the last 2 hearings, Dileep’s lawyer had asked for an adjournment, claiming that he was busy to attend the case. The Kerala government too had asked for an adjournment

In February 2017, a prominent woman actor from Kerala was abducted and sexually assaulted in a moving car while she was traveling from Thrissur to Kochi. Actor Dileep has been accused of masterminding the abduction. In the chargesheet filed by the Kerala police, it stated that Dileep held a grudge against the actor and hired others, including prime accused Puslar Suni, to abduct the survivor, assault and film the act so that he could use it to blackmail her later.