The High Court of Kerala on Saturday allowed the police to question Malayalam actor Dileep and four others in connection with a case relating to the 2017 actress sexual assault.
The high court, in an interim order, said Dileep and the others accused of conspiring to murder the investigation officers in the 2017 case, should appear before the police team for three days – January 23, 24, 25 – from 9am to 8pm. The high court issued the interim order while hearing an anticipatory bail plea filed by the actor and his co-accused. The high court has prohibited the police from arresting the accused till January 27. The prosecution should file a report of the questioning in a sealed cover on Thursday.
The high court has warned the accused against any attempt to influence the investigators. The protection against their arrest will be revoked if they do so, the high court said.
Earlier in the day, the court made an oral observation that the it would be difficult for charges raised against Dileep and others to stand the test of law merely on the basis of the statement given by director Balachandrakumar. While considering the anticipatory bail pleas of Dileep and others, the court said that the police have the power to investigate the conspiracy. But the court said that there seemed to be no need for the custody of the accused.
The court raised a doubt whether Balachandrakumar came up with the allegation only after Dileep backtracked from the movie offered to him. The court also said that it should be investigated whether Dileep had spoken out under the influence of liquor.
But the prosecution made it clear that its main concern was that the probe into the case should not be scuttled by the accused using money and influence.
The court said that the conspiracy angle could definitely be investigated. But there are Supreme Court rulings and guidelines on the matter. Conspiracy and inducement are two different things. Mere statement that someone would be killed cannot be taken as an inducement.
Case fabricated: Dileep's lawyer
The defence lawyer argued that the conspiracy charge was foisted on Dileep and others without any proof. The conspiracy story was fabricated by the police. The interview of Balachandrakumar was a planned one. There were contradictions in the statement of Balachandrakumar. The charges, which were not heard even once during the last four years, have suddenly come up now, Dileep’s lawyer argued.
The defence lawyer alleged that the new case was foisted on Dileep in retaliation for giving a complaint against the inquiry officer Baiju Paulose. It was part of an attempt to create public opinion against Dileep. The attempt was also to delay the ongoing trial in the case.
The prosecution, however, argued that there was strong evidence against Dileep in the conspiracy case. Even though there were no elements of direct evidence, there were many corroborating pieces of evidence, it told the court. The prosecution said that certain pieces of evidence would be handed over to the court. The prosecution urged the court to allow the custodial interrogation of Dileep. It also alleged that the accused were trying to influence the witnesses in the actress attack case.
Prosecution against trial court
Meanwhile, the prosecution complained against the trial court, saying that the prosecution was not allowed to give a proper reply in the trial court. Moreover, the details of the secret trial are getting leaked to the media.
So, the prosecution sought that the trial court proceedings should be held under the supervision of the High Court.
The case was heard during a special sitting in the high court. By avoiding online sitting, Justice P Gopinath heard the arguments at the open court hall.
The Crime Branch had earlier registered a case against six accused, including Dileep, brother Anoop, brother-in-law Sooraj, driver Appu, accomplice Baiju of Chengamanad and an unknown "VIP" on charges of pronouncing death threat against certain police officials and for engaging in conspiracy to achieve this end.
The police registered case against them after film director Balachandrakumar gave a statement that he was witness to the conspiracy hatched by the accused to finish off inquiry officers, including Deputy Superintendents of Police Baiju Paulose and KS Sudarshan, who were part of the team which arrested Dileep. Balachandrakumar had handed over audio tapes to the police that contained conversations of Dileep, his brother Anoop and many others involved in the case.
Meanwhile, the prosecution moved an appeal in the high court, seeking postponement of the examination of additional witnesses in the case till the reinvestigation is over.
The trial court decided to examine the prosecution witnesses Nilisha, Kannadasan, D Suresh and Usha on January 22 and BSNL nodal officer Sathyamoorthy on January 25. The high court allowed the examination of the additional witnesses in the case in a plea filed by the prosecution last week. Then the prosecution had filed a petition in the trial court, seeking postponement of the examination of these additional witnesses for another week since they were staying in Tamil Nadu and they needed more time to come to Kerala.
The trial court rejected the plea, saying that the high court's instruction was to finish the examination of additional witnesses in 10 days. Subsequently, the prosecution moved the high court.