Actress assault case: No change in trial court, Kerala HC rejects survivor's plea

Kerala High Court. Photo: E V Sreekumar.

Kochi: The Kerala High Court on Thursday rejected the survivor's plea seeking change in the trial court in the actor assault case. A single bench headed by Justice Ziyad Rahman dismissed the petition challenging the change of trial court.

The survivor's petition pointed out that the trial court was biased and blocked the inquiry into the change in the hash value of the memory card.

The High Court had earlier raised the question on what basis the survivor made the allegation against the trial court.

The trial came to the Principal Sessions Court from the Additional Sessions Court when the judge became a principal sessions judge.

The trial at the sessions court case took place with the administrative permission of the High Court. This resulted in the survivor moving High Court, seeking a change of court.

Earlier, the hearing of the case was transferred to a female judge at the request of the survivor.

Rejecting the contentions made by the petitioner, the court said it was of the firm view that the petitioner's apprehensions regarding possible interference in the fair trial are not reasonable.

"Possibly, the frequent discussions and debates conducted and being conducted by various news channels in connection with this case for several days and months created some wrong perceptions about the trial of the case, and it apparently influenced the general public at large, including the petitioner. Though I do find that this petition is submitted by the petitioner with all bonafides, I have all the reasons to assume that she is a victim of such wrong perceptions and aspersions created by the media", the court said.

The court said it is evident that the petitioner was skeptical about the whole proceedings right from the inception.

"Instances for the same are plenty", it said.

The defence counsel said the trial in the case was almost over, and seeking a change of court was to delay the judgment in the case.

The defendant requested the court not to allow the change of court. The High Court accepted this and ordered the trial to continue in the Principal Sessions Court of Justice Honey M.

"It is unfortunate that, in the debates in media ('trials'), causes and issues are prejudged, and the verdicts are passed, expecting the courts to pass orders, sentencing the accused to the maximum, by following their declarations", the court said.

It further said these so called debates, claimed to be carried out to enlighten the public at large, convey their views (instead of news), without even fully knowing the nature of materials placed before the court, without properly understanding the circumstances under which the courts take decisions and unaware of the legal provisions and principles relied on/applied by the courts.

It also said this was not the first time this court was forced to make observations regarding the media trial concerning the case at hand.

Endorsing the view that judges must follow their oaths and do their duty, heedless of editorials, letters, telegrams, picketers, threats, petitions, panellists and talk shows, the High court said "Now, it's time for introspection, it's time to take the stock and it's time to leave the justice delivery system alone, to do its job."

"Although criticism is the backbone of democracy and the media is expected to do that, in this case, it is seen transgressed the limits of fairness, reasonableness and rationality", the court said dismissing the victim's plea.

Referring to the timelimit fixed by the Supreme Court, which will expire on January 31, the court further said every endeavour must be taken by all the parties concerned to complete the trial of the case within the said period and "this Court expects that all would work for it, in tandem."

The actress, who has worked in Tamil and Telugu films, was abducted and allegedly molested inside her car for two hours by the accused, who had forced their way into the vehicle on the night of February 17, 2017 and later escaped in a busy area.

The entire act was filmed by the accused to blackmail the actress, according to the prosecution.

There are 10 accused in the case.

(With PTI inputs,)

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