Lawyer, former MP and media critic Sebastian Paul is a social figure in Kerala known for being quite vocal about current issues. However, his recent remarks on Dileep, the eleventh accused in the case of abduction and assault of a woman actor, has invited widespread criticism.
In an article published in the Malayalam website Southlive on Sunday, Sebastian Paul wrote in support of the accused actor Dileep. He is also the Editor-in-Chief and Chairman of the website. Maintaining that there was nothing wrong in creating a "positive and a sympathy wave" for Dileep, he said that the society that stamps on fallen one and a media that digs a deep slushy land for its own advantage, are together scripting a massive tale.
Criticising the judiciary for denying bail to Dileep multiple times, Sebastian Paul wrote:
"Dileep has spent 60 days in jail. This is a crucial milestone in the remand phase. the next one is 90. In order to refuse the natural justice of bail, the police will submit a chargesheet by then. On the basis of the chargesheet, the police will object to the bail plea. Now that's the police side. The criminal law and the constitution warns us not to trust the police version. Unfortunately, magistrates and the judges are not taking this warning into consideration. They have placed their trust in the police and are being guided by the simple logic that there wont be smoke without fire. They will also raise the humanitarian question of taking into consideration the situation of the victim."
In his article, Sebastian Paul recounted the legal struggle of PDP leader Abdul Nazar Madani, who is currently an undertrial in a Karnataka prison.
"We saw this in the case of Abdul Nazar Madani. How easily we stamped him as a terrorist and left him to the clutches of Karnataka police. The police is unable to prove the charges against him but he has already spent 7 years in jail. When Dileep was allowed to take part in the death anniversary rites of his late father, it made many who believe in the judiciary happy, but there were many who opposed it," he wrote.
Saying that forums like Justice for Madani has shown results, he said that although he was not planning to start a forum for Dileep, he would definitely speak for Dileep. Sebastian Paul added that he was not supporting Dileep as a means of paying him back for any favour.
Drawing parallels to the crucification of Jesus, Sebastian Paul wrote:
We should never forget the people who are behind bars. I am a person who believes in a prisoner and worships him. That, the Romans did not give justice to him is an accusation made by time, not me. This why the cry from Gagultha is heard even now (Gagultha is where Jesus was crucified). Veronica had consoled the accused amidst all the soldier's avoiding their protest. That is why her consolation and the towel she used to wipe the face also still remembered."
Questioning the conspiracy angle in the crime, Sebastian Paul wrote that considering the first accused Pulsar Suni is an accused in many similar cases, he would be the direct conspirator in this crime too.
"Empathy towards the victim shouldn't pave way for hatred towards the accused," he wrote, adding that the stands taken by many including Deedi Damodaran, has pained him.
Sebastian Paul also questioned actor Manju Warrier, who was the first to point out a conspiracy in the crime.
"CM said there was no conspiracy in the crime. It was Manju Warrier who first spoke about a conspiracy. I am not aware of Manju revealing why she made such a comment. She must have personally told Sandhya about this. Police say that Dileep was acting in vengeance to the woman actor for spoiling his marital life with Manju. Has Manju said so herself? Are they playing with the life of a man, who has been accused by a criminal and people who have vested interests? " he wrote.
A day after the article was published, Sebastian Paul was met with severe criticism for his remarks.
Calling Sebastian Paul a paid writer, journalist Shahina KK wrote an open letter to him.
She asked, "What is the logic behind you talking for a 'special prisoner' who has spent just 60 days in prison, while there are hundreds of undertrials and remand prisoners? Dileep is not in jail for pickpocketing or a cheque bounce case, but for suspicion in a crime that is 'against humanity' and one that gets sever punishment, next just to murder, according to Indian laws. There are 14 other accused in this case, why have you spoken up only for Dileep?"
Making a pertinent point on Paul's misconception that rape was a crime committed for sexual pleasure, Shahina said, "Can you explain what you mean by your statement that we need not inquire the intention of a man who rapes a woman? Before this, you gave a similar proposition to a debate on Reporter TV. You said that 'carrying out a rape quotation will not satisfy lust. Sebastian Paul, what have you understood about rape? Do you know Zahira Sheikh and Bilkis Bhanu of Gujarat? Were they raped because someone felt lust? I feel ashamed that you believe rape is just a tool for having sexual pleasure."
She then asked him to go back and read history books to understand how sexual violence has been used to silence women.
Script writer Deedi Damodaran took to Facebook to criticise Sebastian Paul's arguments.
â€śIf people who rallied to jail to meet Dileep were provoked over my support to the girl (assaulted actor) that means that patriarchal chauvinism has been hurt. I donâ€™t know whether Pulsar Suni attended Kavyaâ€™s brotherâ€™s wedding, but I did. She had invited me to write an introduction to her book. I attended its release function too. I was very close to Dileep also. But for last the 25 years I have been studying, writing and researching about sexual abuses in Malayalam industry. So I can only stand with the girl who was attacked," she wrote.
"If the accused are innocent they can prove this at the court. I am happy that many are standing with the victim breaking the general practice of isolating the victim," she wrote.
Taking to Facebook, Director Aashiq Abu argued that the police and the government had decided to take a strong stand to serve justice for the woman actor. Calling it an extremely sensitive issue, he wrote:
"Giving money to a gunda gang for sexually assaulting and shooting the visuals on mobile to take revenge is the charge imposed on Dileep . As Sreenivasan said the firm belief, just before the arrest, of people like me who know an intelligent person like Dileep , was that he won't do such a foolish act. But the move of the police made all the moves behind the curtain futile. Police decided to arrest a person who has huge influence and who is extremely wealthy. The government has decided to stand in the part of justice in the sensitive issue. Court found that there is prima facie case against him and denied bail. In our state there is freedom to question law judiciary and government. There is no doubt in that Mr Sebastian Paul. You should also speak for Nisham. I don't forget that you are a lawyer. In the coming days more people like Sreenivasan will speak for Dileep. They would even speak for a riot, not a big like the followers of Ram Rahim, but a small one to protect Dileep. But I am with her."
Lauding the police for their timely arrest of the accused, journalist Sebin A Jacob however, said that holding an accused in judicial custody for so long and denying him bail, was not the right thing to do.
"I am not a fan of Dileep. His movies are unbearable even for 10 minutes. But a just trial and protection from media trial is the right of any accused," he said.
Saying that the chargesheet has to be filed at the earliest, Sebin wrote: "Charge sheet should be filed at the earliest , if he is guilty, punish him, otherwise acquit him. Once more reminding that bail is the law and remand is not. What is the point in emotionally reacting against Sebastian Paul than this."