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[Breaking] Actor Sexual Assault Case : Kerala High Court Defers Trial Till November 6 On Transfer Plea On Prosecution, Victim

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
2 Nov 2020 5:28 AM GMT
[Breaking] Actor Sexual Assault Case : Kerala High Court Defers Trial Till November 6 On Transfer Plea On Prosecution, Victim
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The High Court of Kerala on Monday ordered that the ongoing trial in the sensational actor sexual assault case will stand deferred till November 6.A single bench of Justice V G Arun passed the order on the applications filed by the prosecution and the victim of the crime seeking transfer of the case to another court. The High Court will consider the matter further on November 6.Senior...

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The High Court of Kerala on Monday ordered that the ongoing trial in the sensational actor sexual assault case will stand deferred till November 6.

A single bench of Justice V G Arun passed the order on the applications filed by the prosecution and the victim of the crime seeking transfer of the case to another court. The High Court will consider the matter further on November 6.

Senior Advocate S.Sreekumar, appearing for the victim of the crime, told the court that she had to undergo an "ordeal" of continuous cross-examination for nine days by a battery of lawyers of the accused, where highly objectionable questions affecting her character were raised. Though the prosecution raised objections at such questions, the court did nothing to protect the victim, submitted the senior lawyer.

"The trial judge and the prosecutor are now at loggerheads. The judge has made remarks against the prosecutor and has read out the contents of an anonymous letter against the prosecutor. It is not possible to continue trial in that court in such a scenario. Since the prosecution itself has expressed doubts about the bona fides of the judge and expressed no-confidence, how can the victim place faith in the court", Mr. Sreekumar submitted.

Responding to a query from the bench, Sreekumar submitted that the transfer of the case will not affect the deadline set by the Supreme Court to complete the trial.

The public prosecutor, Suman Chakravarthy, told the bench that the trial judge was not even ready to record the objections raised by the prosecution, and started recording them only after the prosecutor threatened to walk out of the courtroom. 

Mr.Chakravarthy informed the bench that the affidavit of the Special Prosecutor, A Sureshan, narrating various events during the trial, has been placed before the bench.

Justice V G Arun asked if the approach of the judge, even if said to be flawed or mistaken, amounts to reflecting bias on the part of the judge. To this, Mr. Chakravarthy replied that justice should also be seen to be done and that the entire sequence of events will show that the trial is not proceeding in a "fair and transparent" manner. The approach adopted by the trial judge is "unheard of" in a criminal trial, the prosecutor added. 

It is only rarely that the prosecution itself will come forward with a request to transfer the case, the prosecutor pointed out.

The prosecutor also suggested to the bench to call for a report from the presiding judge to ascertain if the officer is still interested in handling the case amidst the controversy.

When Justice Arun asked why the transfer was sought now after the examination of nearly 80 witnesses, the prosecutor replied that oral objections before the trial court were raised at earlier stages and that the prosecution was hoping to see a change in the trial judge's approach before taking a drastic step of seeking the change of the court.

Following these arguments, Justice Arun posted the case to Friday(November 6) and said that the trial will stand deferred till then.

In the transfer application, the victim stated that she was aggrieved by the "biased and hostile" attitude of the presiding judge.

Earlier, the prosecution had filed an application before the trial court seeking to stop the proceedings to move the High Court for transferring the case. This application was dismissed by the Court of Additional Sessions Judge (Special/CBI)-III, Ernakulam, last Friday and the was trial directed to be resumed from November 3.

The trial was specially assigned to this court by the High Court at the request of the victim for a woman judge to try the csae.

In the transfer application, the actor alleged that judge sat like a "mute spectator" when she was harassed by the lawyer of prominent actor Dileep, who is the alleged mastermind behind the crime. She further alleged that the trial judge refused to record certain portions of her testimony without any justification, despite repeated requests made by the Prosecutor.

The transfer plea further pointed out that the trial court has also not taken a decision on the application moved by the prosecution seeking to cancel the bail of Dileep on the ground of intimidating the victim and other witnesses in the case.

Prominent Malayalam film actor Dileep is accused of hatching the criminal conspiracy behind the abduction and the sexual assault of the victim, also an actor, in a moving vehicle in the outskirts of Cochin city in February 2017.

The prosecution has so far examined 80 witnesses in the case, including certain prominent actors of the Malayalam film industry. Some of them have reportedly turned hostile. The victim of the crime has also given her statement.

The Special Prosecutor had taken exception to certain statements and remarks said to have been made by the judge during the course of witness examination.

"The prosecution honestly believes that the prosecution as well as the victim will not get fair trial and justice from this court", the application filed by Prosecution to defer the proceeedings had said.

"The prosecution intends to approach the honourable High Court for transfer of the trial of this case from this Honourable Court to any other court. Therefore, it is humbly submitted that the prosecution is not in a position to conduct the trial of the above case before this court on the above grounds and also on several other grounds which are not to be mentioned here to protect the interests of justice", the plea had stated.

Dismissing the proseuction's application on Friday, Special Judge Honey M Varghese instructed the investigating officer to take steps to resume the trial from November 3 to complete the proceedings within the time frame set by the Supreme Court.

"In the light of direction of Hon'ble Supreme Court to dispose of the case on or before 04.02.20201, investigating officer is directed to take urgent steps to resume the trial on 03.11.2020", the Court ordered.

In November 2019, while rejecting Dileep's plea for a copy of the memory card allegedly containing the visuals of the sexual crime, the Supreme Court had ordered that the trial in the case should be completed expeditiously, "preferably within six months".

The Kerala Police had arrested Dileep in July 2017 alleging that he was the mastermind of the crime. After 88 days of custody, the High Court granted him bail.



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