Thiruvananthapuram: The sensational actor assault case in which top Malayalam film actor Dileep is a co-accused has reached a critical phase with the Crime Branch calling of any further probe and deciding not to book his wife and cine artist Kavya Madhavan. The investigators have also decided not to quiz the defence lawyers as was intended, much to the chagrin of the political establishment and the judicial sector.
However, the delay in the appointment of a new Special Public Prosecutor has set tongues wagging even as allegations of attempts to derail the probe are raised by a few quarters.
The Kerala Government could not appoint the special public prosecutor even four-and-a-half months after the last incumbent resigned from the post, citing bad experiences from the trial court. Previously, another advocate resigned from the post, citing the same grounds. With those supporting the survivor actor raising a hue and cry over such a delay in filling up the post, the government is now taking a strange position that the survivor actor can herself decide on the nominee.
Though the survivor actor was asked to give the name, the government did not provide her with the list of advocates from which the selection has to be made. She is reportedly in a dilemma as to who has to be recommended for the post. Meanwhile, a final decision on the appointment has been delayed by the authorities.
The government sources had earlier suggested that the actress could appoint an advocate of her own in the case. But the legal experts pointed out that it would adversely affect the case. They pointed out that it is the responsibility of the government to ensure justice for the survivor. So, the government cannot abdicate this responsibility by putting the onus on the survivor. Moreover, a lawyer can be appointed by the survivor only with the permission of the prosecution wing. In legal circles it is well known that such an appointee will not have the freedom and power enjoyed by the prosecutor in the matter of working in tandem with the police probe team.
According to the supporters of the survivor actor, only if an efficient prosecutor is appointed, the case can be successfully fought by overcoming all challenges. The High Court had earlier given time till May 31 for completing the ongoing probe into the case based on the revelations of film director Balachandrakumar.
Survivor actor shoots off another missive to SC
Meanwhile, the survivor actor sent another missive to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, raising a complaint against the trial court and seeking inquiry against the leakage of visuals from the custody of the trial court.
Earlier, she had sent a letter to the Chief Justice, seeking an inquiry into the matter. Though it was directed then that the High Court Vigilance team should look into the issue, nothing happened later. It is in this context that the actor sent the letter again to the Supreme Court.
In the letter, the actor raised the apprehension that the trial court judge Honey M Varghese was trying to hush up many facts in the case. When the defence lawyers kept on asking cruel questions during the cross examination that lasted for many days, the trial court did not stop it and instead kept mum. Later, the survivor actor had to air publicly that the trial in the case turned out to be another kind of harassment for her.
The Thrissur-based organisation, Jana Neethi, also wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India, seeking the removal of the trial court judge. Though a legal battle was fought by the government and others up to the level of the Supreme Court earlier raising the same demand, it was rejected. But now, the same demand is raised again by citing the digital evidence that has come out in public domain about the attempts made by the accused to influence the trial court judge.
The High Court had allowed Honey M Varghese to continue as the trial court judge as per the Supreme Court ruling to this effect. The court allowed her to continue in the post by excluding her this time from the routine transfer applicable to judicial officers every three years.
But those supporting the survivor actor argue that the Supreme Court and the High Court have said nowhere that the same judge should continue in the post till the pronouncement of the verdict in the case.
Strange enough, no inquiry has begun on the basis of the Forensic Science Lab report that the trial court had illegally handled the memory card that contained visuals pertaining to the case. There are also allegations that the trial court is blocking an investigation into the matter. The complaint given by Jana Neethi also contains the name of another judge, who is an accused in scuttling this probe.
The survivor actor had earlier approached the Kerala Bar Council alleging that the lawyers representing Dileep were trying to scuttle the probe into the case. The Bar Council, in turn, sought the explanation of the advocates in this regard.
Behera, Gurudin under a cloud
Those who support the survivor actor are seeking an inquiry into the alleged interference of former DGP (Law and Order) Lokanath Behera and DIG Sanjaykumar Gurudin in the case. The complaint filed by Jana Neethi pointed out that there was evidence to show that Behera, while being DGP, had spoken to Dileep many times over the phone and sent messages to him through WhatsApp just before the latter's arrest.
The complaint also said that Behera had asked then ADGP B Sandhya, who supervised the investigation, not to arrest Dileep. But she went on to arrest Dileep without heeding his advice. As a retaliatory move, prior to the selection of the new State Police Chief, Behera is said to have given a report to the government that Sandhya was not trustworthy. It is alleged that this was done with the sole aim of stymying the chances of Sandhya getting selected to the coveted post.
It is widely held that the high-level interference in the Dileep case likely dented the chances of a woman becoming the first State Police Chief. However, Sandhya, who is now the Fire Force DGP, has not responded to these controversies.
DIG Gurudin is in the thick of controversy over the Crime Branch's findings that he had made a WhatsApp call to Dileep, a day before the actor was booked in the case involving the conspiracy to attack the police officers who are probing the 2017 case.
It is alleged that even now there are high-level political operations going on to avoid any kind of inquiry into the undue interference of top-ranking police officers and ex-officers in the case.
Does Sreejith's replacement matter?
Those supporting the cause of the survivor actor also find something fishy in the removal of Crime Branch DGP S Sreejith, who directly supervised the investigation into both the actress assault case and conspiracy case, soon after the appointment of P Sasi as the political secretary to the Chief Minister.
There has been widespread criticism against the government for shifting Sreejith from the police force itself and appointing him as the Transport Commissioner at a time when the investigation in the sensational case has reached such a crucial stage.
The petition filed by film director Baiju Kottarakkara against the transfer of Sreejith is pending before the High Court.