The survivor in the 2017 Kerala sexual assault case, actor Bhavana, has approached the Kerala High Court alleging misconduct by judge Honey M Varghese, the trial court judge hearing the rape case. In a strong petition demanding that the investigation in the case should continue without being cut short due to political interference, Bhavana has pointed fingers at the trial court judge, at the ruling front in Kerala, and at Dileep’s lawyers, and has asked the High Court to ensure that the trial in her case doesn’t end prematurely. She’s also asked the High Court to direct the trial court to release a forensic analysis report that the judge, Honey Varghese, has been holding on to for several months.
Bhavana was sexually assaulted in a moving vehicle in February 2017 by a man named ‘Pulsar’ Suni with the help of his accomplices. The assault was allegedly masterminded by top Malayalam actor Dileep, who is named as accused number 8 in the case.
During a search by investigating officers a few months ago in the Thiruvananthapuram Forensic Science Lab, it found that judge Honey Varghese had sought a forensic report on the memory card from FSL. This report purportedly said that the memory card was accessed once illegally while it was in the custody of the Ernakulam Sessions court between March 2018 and March 2019. The prosecution had asked in court why the judge had not revealed to the investigating agency that she had gotten such a forensic analysis report. Following the raid, the judge said in open court that the report has been with her for the past two years, but has not released the report.
Bhavana, in her petition filed in the High Court on Monday, May 23, has questioned the judge’s actions in this regard. “Even though the FSL has submitted a clear report to the Presiding Officer, Presiding Officer kept the same upto her without even giving to the Section Clerk and making any entries in the court records. This is a serious misconduct committed by her and it clearly shows that she has an agenda to save the culprits who have illegally accessed the same and accessed/tampered/transmitted the same,” the petition said. “By keeping it secret whether she obtained any benefits is also to be investigated.”
The survivor has alleged political interference in the case, and has said she suspects that Dileep has used his friends in the ruling front to ensure that the investigation in the case is not completed, and the trial is prematurely finished. In the last year, the case has seen several new revelations, including from a man called Balachandra Kumar, who claimed to be a friend of Dileep, and released audio clips allegedly of Dileep and his supporters conspiring to kill the investigating officer in the rape case. Balachandra Kumar also alleged that Dileep has illegally accessed visuals of the assault. The prosecution and Bhavana have requested that the trial in the court must not finish its proceedings and must allow the investigation to continue in the face of new information.
“It is painfully submitted that the Government of Kerala which gave support to the cause of the petitioner/victim at the initial stages and allowed a fair investigation in the case, by police officers of high integrity and took credit of the investigation politically, has backtracked from its constitutional legal commitment of conducting a free, fair and complete investigation in the case. The petitioner bonafide apprehends that, the 8th Accused Sri.Gopalakrishnan@Dileep who is highly influential directly and through his related sources has unlawfully influenced some of the politicians in the ruling front and attempting to interfere with the further investigation in this case and prematurely close the same,” the petition said.
“Even though the prosecution has approached this Hon'ble Court with a petition to extend time limit fixed by this Hon'ble Court, it is reliably 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 file the additional final report in a half cooked manner. This clearly establishes the illegal nexus between the accused and the ruling front,” the petition said.
Bhavana has also alleged in the petition that Dileep’s advocates — who have been accused of tampering with evidence in the case and tutoring witnesses — are not being investigated properly, as they have influence with ruling front politicians. “...investigating agency has made all its attempts to investigate into the role of the said Advocates the same was not successful as the senior counsel and his associates has substantial influence with the ruling Government and it is learnt that some assurances were secured by those Advocates from the political authorities that the further investigation will not reach them,” the petition said.
“So also there is an agenda for the political and administrative higher ups that no investigation is done in respect of the illegal access, tampering and transmission of the contents of the memory card is conducted due to reasons best known to them,” the petition added.
Bhavana has now petitioned the High Court for a series of directions to various respondents, including the trial court and the police. She wants the HC to direct the trial court to send the pen drive for another forensic examination, and for the police to investigate tampering of evidence. She also asked the HC to call for a case diary from the Additional Special Sessions Court and verify the progress of the investigation on file.
According to the prosecution, ‘Pulsar’ Suni was told to record a video of the assault by Dileep, who sought revenge on Bhavana over a personal tiff. Suni handed over a memory card with the assault visuals to his lawyer, who in turn handed it over to the Angamaly Magistrate Court.
This memory card was sent for forensic examination to the Forensic Science Lab in Thiruvananthapuram. After forensic examination, the sealed memory card along with a pen drive in which the visuals were copied by the FSL Lab for the purpose of reference were returned to the Angamaly court. The memory card was sealed so as to protect the memory card from any kinds of illegal access or tampering. Then from March 2018 to March 2019, the memory card and pen drive were stored in the Ernakulam Principal and Sessions court. In March 2019, it was transferred to Judge Honey Varghese’s court.
Subsequently as directed by the Supreme Court, the memory card was forwarded to FSL again in December 2019 to prepare a cloned copy. This cloned copy was to be used by Dileep to get an independent forensic report. The FSL returned the memory card along with the cloned copy to the trial court. Dileep meanwhile sent the clone copy to a forensic lab in Chandigarh. This copy too was returned to the same court after inspection.
What the police was unaware of was that in December 2019 Judge Honey Varghese had asked FSL in Thiruvananthapuram to give a report on how many times the memory card was accessed. It is alleged that this report mentioned the card was opened illegally once, but the report was never disclosed by the judge.