A cursory look at the court orders on bail pleas provides room for doubt that these orders are influenced by the sensations created by the media and the resulting public opinion. Is justice being denied to the actor accused of conspiracy behind the sexual assault of an actress?
The actress was attacked on February 17, 2017. The main suspect behind the attack tried to surrender before a court within a week. The police dragged him away from the court. The television channels broadcast the suspect shouting that he was made to do it. The next day, the accused remains silent when he is produced before a court.
The chief minister says in a press conference that there was no conspiracy behind the attack on the actress. He was relying on the reports from the investigating officers. A final report is submitted after a quick probe.
Now the twist in the tale. Main accused Sunil Kumar aka Pulsar Suni gives a letter to a fellow prisoner with a direction to pass it on to actor Dileep. A copy of the letter is sent to Dileep's manager Appunni on WhatsApp. Media reported that Suni even called up Appunni and threatened to name Dileep if he did not receive the promised Rs 1.5 crore.
The media also reported that Dileep lodged a complaint of blackmailing with the state police chief a few days later. It was not known if the complaint was sent to the police station concerned to prepare a first information report.
In the meantime, T.P. Senkumar is reinstated as the police chief following an order from the Supreme Court. Suni's fellow prisoner says that the accused had confided that he was acting on Dileep's order. The police is put on the job of a quick probe into the conspiracy angle.
The police interrogate Dileep and his friend and director Nadirshah for 13 hours.
Senkumar retires a few days later and Lokanath Behera replaces him. Later, Senkumar came out saying that there was not enough evidence against Dileep and the investigating officer was seeking publicity. Dileep is arrested on July 10 on charge of conspiracy.
Lawyers working on criminal cases were piqued by the development of the case. Lawyers who have handled criminal cases cannot believe the claim that the letter doing the rounds on WhatsApp was written or dictated by Suni. The clean handwriting and the cordial language do not fit a hardened criminal.
Even if Suni got the letter written by someone else, the clarity of language raises suspicion that the letter was a well planned one. The letter is far from being natural. A natural letter would have a couple of corrections here and there. This letter, planned by someone and written by someone else, prompted Dileep to complain that someone was conspiring against him.
The police should have registered a case based on the complaint, according to the Supreme Court guidelines issued in the Lalita Kumari case. It is not clear what happened to the complaint or if the police registered an FIR in the case.
A case of conspiracy has been registered against Dileep but the motive does not seem very convincing. The theory that the victim had a role to play in rocking the actor’s marriage and that prompted the actor to target her would hardly convince a just judge. Even if the actress’s involvement derailed the actor's family life, why would he nurse a grudge against her if he was able to marry his lover? Why would he offer Rs 1 crore to a criminal to get even with the actress for an incident in 2012? After all her involvement was a blessing in disguise. Would a criminal dare to do such a heinous act after accepting only Rs 10,000 as advance? Who would buy the claim that the actor and Pulsar Suni were preparing for the assault since 2013?
The claim that the actor met the hired goon only four times in four years is a mockery of common sense.
When an intelligent actor such as Dileep complains of a conspiracy against him and alleges that someone is trying to frame him, the police could not help but take it in face value. An actor's market value is susceptible to his image. So he would try to settle the issues with a goon he had hired rather than going to the police. Had the actor any role in the crime, he would have paid the seemingly dispensable amount of money to pacify the criminal. Even if he was too miserly to pay up, his producers would have been more than willing to pay given the crores of money at stake related to movies pending release.
Dileep never displayed a criminal's body language or behavior when he appeared on media. Even witnesses in a case try not to antagonize media. The way Dileep countered the media organizations and anchors who accused him was prove enough that he was innocent.
The police will find it difficult to establish Dileep's role in a conspiracy because the victim has not pointed a finger to the actor.
If a person has not thought about absconding or filing a petition seeking anticipatory bail even after being interrogated for more than 13 hours, it is a reflection of his firm belief that he is innocent. Pulsar Suni's antecedents show that he had targeted more actresses earlier.
If hired goons such as Suni dare to target famous actresses, there is no doubt that such acts are assigned by the big sharks in the cinema industry. The motives are endless in this cyber age.
A real picture may emerge if we probe who roped in a famous advocate such as Aloor on behalf of Suni and who wanted the police to drag Suni out of the court room where he went to surrender. The appearance of Aloor on the days ahead of Dileep's arrest and Suni's attempts to put Dileep in a shadow of doubt whenever he spotted the media after that raise suspicion about a conspiracy against the actor.
The castrating of Swami Gangeshananda and the allegation against Vincent MLA come to mind when we discuss individual rights and bail conditions. You don't need an extra sensory perception to sense a mystery if you go by the claim that the swami waited quietly until the police found him with his penis severed. That mysterious circumstances provides a sympathetically positive situation for the accused.
Reports about the case against the Kovalam MLA lead to a debate on who is he real victim in the case. The story is no different in the case of a journalist who was involved in consensual sex which was later claimed to be rape.
Denying them bail in the name of a prolonged investigation and the lame excuse that they were likely to influence the witnesses is tantamount to punishing them without a trial. All these incidents strengthen the apprehensions that the courts of law falter in interpreting the individual rights as guaranteed by the Constitution.
(The author is an advocate at Kerala High Court. Views expressed here are personal.)