Kerala actor assault case: HC admits govt's plea to re-examine three witnesses

The High Court has also asked the state to appoint a new Special Public Prosecutor to represent the survivor actor during the trial, since the previous government counsel withdrew from the case.
Kerala actor assault case: HC admits govt's plea to re-examine three witnesses
Kerala actor assault case: HC admits govt's plea to re-examine three witnesses
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The Kerala High Court on Monday, January 17, allowed the state government’s plea filed in the actor abduction and assault case, seeking the re-examination of three witnesses and permission to summon five new witnesses in the hearing of the case. The prosecution in the case, in which actor Dileep is the eighth accused and alleged to have masterminded the crime, had moved the High Court against the trial court order that had turned down its request. 

Setting aside the trial court order that had dismissed a similar plea by the prosecution, Justice Kauser Edappagath of the Kerala High Court allowed three witnesses — PW (prosecution witness) number 43 Vasudevan, PW number 69 Anto Joseph, and PW 73 Rasheed alias Manu — to be re-examined. The High Court said that the exercise of attaching additional evidence should be done in 10 days. The High Court also directed the Director-General of Prosecution to ensure that a new Special Public Prosecutor is appointed in the case. Special Public Prosecutor VN Anilkumar had in December 2021 withdrawn from the case after appearing for the survivor for a year. He was the second public prosecutor to resign from the case. 

The prosecution had earlier moved the trial court which is hearing the actor assault case, seeking permission to examine 16 witnesses — nine of them additional witnesses while seven have been examined before. Actor Dileep, who has been accused of paying money to a man named Pulsar Suni for contracting the sexual assault of the actor and videotaping it, had opposed the petition in the trial court.

While judge Honey Verghese of the trial court allowed the re-examination of three witnesses, she denied permission for 13 others saying that these witnesses had been examined and there was no need for a repeat. She also denied permission to the prosecution to summon four witnesses whose phone numbers were used by the accused persons. The prosecution had asked to find out how the mobile phones that were registered under their names reached the hands of the accused. 

After the trial court turned down its request, the prosecution in the case moved the High Court

The prosecution had sought original customer applications in respect of 25 mobile numbers, including that of Dileep, as well as proper certificates, in accordance with Section 65(B) of the Evidence Act, for the call detail records of eight numbers, which also includes that of the actor. The fresh certificates have been sought as the earlier ones "did not furnish the entire details," the petition has said.

The prosecution also contended that the lower court was wrong in maintaining that there was a delay in filing the application seeking the call records and original customer details. The prosecution has contested the lower court's decision to reject the application for recalling some of the witnesses and allowing summoning of only three and said that it was "illegal and improper and would cause prejudice in arriving at a right decision in the case."

Meanwhile, the High Court will hear on Tuesday, January 18, Dileep’s anticipatory bail plea which he filed after a fresh case was registered against him by the Kerala police. The Crime Branch had, on January 9, registered the case on a complaint filed by an investigating officer based on a purported audio clip of Dileep, which was released by a TV channel recently in which the actor was allegedly heard conspiring to attack the official. Besides Dileep, his younger brother P Sivakumar and brother-in-law TN Suraj have also moved the High Court seeking the same relief.

The actor and five others were booked under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, including Sections 116 (abetment), 118 (concealing design to commit offence), 120B (criminal conspiracy), 506 (criminal intimidation), and 34 (criminal act done by several people).

The joint plea moved by all three accused has claimed that the complaint made against them by the officer — Deputy Superintendent (Crime Branch) Baiju Paulose — was false. They have contended that the allegations in the FIR, registered on the basis of the complaint, are totally baseless.

The survivor actor, who has worked in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam films, was abducted and allegedly sexually assaulted in her car for two hours by some of the accused, who had forced their way into the vehicle on the night of February 17, 2017, and later escaped in a busy area. The entire act was filmed by some of the accused to blackmail the actor. There are 10 accused in the case and initially, police arrested seven people. Dileep was arrested subsequently and let out on bail later.

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