Why Dileep's lawyer Raman Pillai is peeved at the Kerala Crime Branch

The police want to question Raman Pillai in two cases of witness intimidation related to the Kerala actor sexual assault case.
Raman Pillai
Raman Pillai
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Lawyers belonging to the Ernakulam Bar Association gathered at the Kerala High Court portico on February 22, Tuesday afternoon, in support of senior advocate Raman Pillai. The lawyers were protesting a notice that the Kerala Crime Branch sent to the advocate, who is representing actor Dileep in the 2017 Kerala actor sexual assualt case. Raman Pillai has called this notice patently illegal, adding one more layer to the tension between him and the investigators in the case. So what is the notice about? It can be traced back to two cases filed in 2020.

Jinson Eliyas, a witness in the actor sexual assault case, filed a police complaint on January 20, 2020 alleging that a man named Nazar called him earlier that month and asked him to give a statement in court in favour of Dileep. Jinson was accused number 1 Pulsar Suni’s cellmate in the Kakkanad jail, and had told the police that he heard Pulsar Suni speaking to Dileep’s friend Nadirsha, among other details. Nazar allegedly told Jinson that he would be given five cents of land or Rs 25 lakh, for changing his statement. There was also a phone conversation that Jinson recorded, in which Nazar can be heard mentioning Raman Pillai’s name. An FIR was registered by the Peechi police station on January 20, 2020.

The second case was filed on September 26, 2020 by Vipin Lal, who is yet another witness in the assault case. Vipin, who was also Pulsar Suni’s jailmate, was initially named as an accused, and later turned an approver. He had purportedly written a letter on Suni’s behalf to Dileep. Vipin’s complaint said that he had repeatedly received threat calls after he turned approver, and that a man had come and met him, intimidating him to withdraw his statement. Soon, it emerged that the office secretary of Pathanapuram MLA and actor, KB Ganesh Kumar, had met Vipin Lal’s family.

It is in these cases that the Crime Branch sent a notice to Raman Pillai asking him to appear before them on February 16. Though these cases were filed in 2020, the police have summoned Raman Pillai only now. He has however refused to appear before the police and has said registering these FIRs while the main case is on trial is illegal. Raman Pillai’s contention is that since these two complaints pertain to tampering of evidence in the assault case, complaints should have been filed before the trial court and investigation done after obtaining a court order. He has quoted Section 195 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, that gives such jurisdictions to a trial court.

“While the above trial was proceeding, two FIRs were registered. The allegations in both the complaints pertain to offence punishable under Section 195 A. You are well aware that no FIR can be registered in respect of such offences in the manner done. Various judicial pronouncements including those of our Hon'ble High Court of Kerala are clear on this point. Any investigation on the basis of an illegally registered FIR can only be illegal. As an advocate appearing on instruction by the Advocate on record for one the accused in the above case, it is not in the interest of justice, nor permissible to include myself as a witness in the case under investigation,” he said in his reply.

Raman Pillai also said that the Crime Branch’s attempt to record his statement is a challenge to the rule of law. “You are requested to desist from any such attempts and show deference to law and strictly confine exercise of your investigative power in accordance with law. You have further contravened the law in requiring a lawyer who is defending an accused in a case to give information and share communications which is declared by law as privileged professional communication explicitly protected under Section 126 of Indian Evidence Act,” his reply said. 

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