It has been a year since a renowned Malayalam female actor was abducted, sexually harassed and assaulted by a gang of men in a moving vehicle. The trial in the high-profile case that shook the state, to be held at the Ernakulam District Sessions Court, is yet to begin.
The assault took place in a SUV on the Thrissur-Kochi road on February 17, 2017. The men also allegedly took pictures and videos of the incident. The actor was restrained inside the vehicle for more than two hours, after which she was dropped near a director’s house. She filed a complaint at the Nedumbassery police station with the help of the director.
The first chargesheet in the case was filed on April 18, 2017 and a subsidiary chargesheet on November 22.
“Usually the trial in a case begins within two months of filing the chargesheet. But in this case it is delayed as one of the accused, actor Dileep, approached the court with various pleas. It’s a purposeful attempt to delay the trial. We have requested for a speedy trial and hopefully it will commence within days,” an officer who is part of the investigating team told TNM.
Sunil Kumar, alias Pulsur Suni, a habitual offender, is the key accused in the case. He was arrested at the premises of the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Court in Ernakulam where he came there to surrender on February 23, 2017.
Prominent actor in the Malayalam industry Dileep is the eight accused in the case. The Special Investigation Team probing the case, headed by Perumbavoor Circle Inspector Baiju Poulose, arrested Dileep on July 10, 2017 for his alleged involvement in the conspiracy to carry out the crime.
Dileep was released on bail on October 3 after spending 85 days in jail, even as many feared that his influence may affect the course of the investigation. Out of jail, Dileep approached the court in January with a plea to get access to all evidence in the case, including visuals of the assault of the actor inside the vehicle. The Angamaly Magistrate Court while granting permission to access evidence rejected the plea to access the visuals.
“Such moves by the accused seem to be an attempt on his part to delay the trial,” the officer added.
However, A Suresan, who is the special Public Prosecutor in the case, said that there was nothing unusual in the fact that the trial hadn’t begun yet.
“We can’t say that it’s not usual. About the request for a speedy trial we haven’t decided yet,” he said.
The prosecution and the police had argued against Dileep’s plea to access the visuals. While the prosecution pointed out the fact that he is an accused in the case, the police argued that Dileep could use the visuals to defame the actor.
Baiju Poulose told TNM that there were attempts from Dileep to defame the actor.
“There was a deliberate attempt to defame the female actor, to portray that she is not moral. This all should be viewed as an attempt to weaken our confidence to win the case. But we are confident that the chargesheet is strong and our evidence is strong enough to convict the accused in the case. We are aware that the lower court judgement will be challenged in an upper court, but we are confident,” he said.
Baiju added that there were no lapses in the probe by the SIT and that the chargesheet was also submitted in a timely manner.
Female actor is abducted and subjected to rude humiliation and assault in a moving car near Kochi on February 17.
The same day the actor filed a complaint, based on which the police registered an FIR.
By February 19, the police nabbed three of the seven accused in the case.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan landed himself in trouble for his comment after the incident that there was no conspiracy in the abduction case.
On April 18, the first chargesheet in the case was filed naming Pulsar Suni and six others as accused.
On June 23, reports suggested that the police are set to reopen the case. Jinson, a prison inmate of Sunil Kumar at Kakkana sub-jail, disclosed that the latter had shared with him some of the details about the crime, which turned out to be a twist in the case.
On June 24, a letter purportedly sent by Pulsur Suni to Dileep surfaced. On the same day, Dileep and his close friend and filmmaker Nadirsha told a TV channel that they had received a phone call from a person claiming to be Suni’s prison mate demanding Rs 1. 5 crore to not reveal Dileep’s name in the case.
On June 26, in an interview to Reporter channel Dileep blamed the survivor saying that she had been friends with Pulsur Suni.
On June 28, Dileep and Nadirsha were questioned for nearly 13 hours by the investigating team headed by ADGP Sandhya and Aluva Rural SP AV George.
On July 10, in a big move, the SIT arrested Dileep. He was housed in the Aluva sub-jail.
On September 6, for the first time after he was jailed, Dileep was let out for two hours to perform the rituals in connection with his father’s death anniversary.
The whole community was divided on the issue with people supporting either Dileep or the survivor. September 2017 witnessed a campaign with the hashtag avalkoppam with which many came out in open support of the woman actor. This was prompted by some actors in the industry visiting Dileep in jail during Onam.
Senior politician and MLA PC George went to the extent of consistently making derogatory comments against the survivor, finally prompting her to react.
On September 28, Dileep’s much-hyped movie Ramleela released. Social media witnessed a huge debate as many demanded a boycott of the movie while others spoke in favour of it.
Dileep has constantly been trying to get bail.
On October 3, after 85 days in jail Dileep was granted bail.
On November 22, the investigating team filed the subsidiary chargesheet at the Angamaly Magistrate Court. Running into 650 pages, it named 12 accused in the case, Dileep being the eight accused. It made his former wife and leading actor, Manju Warrier, a key witness.
On December 5, the court accepted the chargesheet.
More than 50 people from the Malayalam film industry are witnesses in the case; those grilled by the police include several big names.
On January 20, 2018 ADGP Sandhya was transferred in a reshuffle of the top brass.
On February 7, the court rejected Dileep’s plea to access visuals of the assault. The Magistrate Court in Angamaly also shifted the trial to the Ernakulam District Sessions Court.