Karuvannur scam: Kochi court allows ED to provide charge sheet to 55 accused in pen drives

  • Special Court judge Shibu Thomas relies on the Supreme Court's order in actor Dileep's case to pronounce the 'historic judgment' in 10 days
  • The Supreme Court, however, is yet to decide whether the accused can accept digital charge sheet in a Vyapam case; the case has been pending in the apex court since Sept 2020
  • Judgment saved at least Rs 17 lakh of public money, the cost of supplying copies of the 26,000-page document to 55 accused, said ED's special public prosecutor M J Santhosh
Karuvannur Cooperative Bank
Congress activists protesting in front of Karuvannur Cooperative Bank. FILE PHOTO: Manorama

Kochi: In what could be a landmark order, a special court in Ernakulam hearing money laundering cases allowed the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) to provide its voluminous charge sheet to the 55 accused in Karuvannur bank loan scam as digital documents.

The ED on November 10 moved the Additional Special Session Court - III seeking permission to furnish electronic copies of the 26,000-page document to the accused and not to insist on printed copies.

The order by Special Judge Shibu Thomas has saved Rs 17 lakh of public money, the approximate cost of supplying copies of the 26,000-page document to 55 accused, said ED's special public prosecutor M J Santhosh. "Apart from the cost, the judgment is historic because I think this is the first time a court has allowed supplying documents to accused digitally instead of hard copies," he said.

Of the 26,000 pages, the first 300 pages are the complaints and charges against the accused. The rest of the pages are statements of the accused, bank statements, and supporting evidence which the ED would rely on to prosecute them, said Santhosh. The central agency was ready to provide the first 300-page complaint as printed copies and the rest in pen drives to the accused, he said.

Special judge Shibu Thomas's order, given in flat 10 days, is special because the Supreme Court has not yet taken a call on whether a voluminous charge sheet can be given to the accused in electronic format.

The CBI, investigating the Vyapam professional examination scam of Madhya Pradesh, is in the Supreme Court seeking permission to give soft copies of the charge sheet to accused Abhishek Sachan alias Abhishek Singh, who is insisting on printed copies. The case has been in the apex court since September 2020.

Special judge Shibu Thomas, however, relied on a Supreme Court order in the actor Dileep vs State of Kerala case, where it held that the contents of a pen drive containing video footage of an alleged rape incident are a "document" within the meaning of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, and the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and not a "material object". Therefore, the accused is entitled to get a cloned copy of the contents of the memory card/pen drive under section 207 of the CrPC, subject to certain conditions and safeguards to protect the privacy, dignity, and identity of the victim.

In the Vyapam case, the Supreme Court orally referred to the judgment in Dileep's case but is yet to take a final call.

Karuvannur Bank.
Karuvannur Bank. File photo: Manorama

According to Section 207 in the Code Of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), the accused has the right to access documents the prosecution will rely on during the trial. It says the magistrate shall, without delay furnish to the accused, free of cost, a copy of the police report, the FIR, statements of all the witnesses the prosecution proposes to examine, confessions, and other documents attached to the police report. If the document is voluminous, the accused will only be allowed to inspect it either personally or through a pleader in court.

In his judgment, Special Judge Shibu Thomas said pen drives are more efficient and economical when compared to paper copies, which will consume large amounts of paper, ink, and resources, and would pose a challenge for storage and examination. Digital documents are eco-friendly and "would also be more clear and accurate than the paper copies of documents as it would retain the original quality and resolution", he said in the judgment pronounced on November 21.

The charge sheet in pen drive would not prejudice the rights and interest of the accused as the prosecution would take all necessary steps to ensure the authenticity and integrity of pen drives, he said. "It is important to note that courts are transitioning to paperless courts," he said.

The Special Judge, however, set five conditions: One, the pen drives should not have any defects, damage, or virus; two, the pen drives should be provided in a tamper-proof envelope with a unique identification number; three, the documents should have a digital signature or a certificate of authenticity to verify the source and integrity of the documents; four, the pen drives should not be deleted or modified without permission; and five, the prosecution should also provide the accused with necessary devices and software to access the pen drive, if required.

ED officials at Karuvannur Bank. Photo: Manorama

Names of the 55 accused
The ED submitted the charge sheet to the special court on November 1. The 26,000-page document was brought to the court in six boxes. The 55 accused include depositors, the bank's former directors, former employees, and seven companies owned by the first accused and former commission agent of the bank Bijoy A K and two companies owned by the ninth accused and real estate player Kiran P P.

The 55 accused are: Commission agent Bijoy A K (48) of Korimbisseri in Irinjalakuda, his seven companies in Irinjalakuda -- Thekkady Resorts Ltd, Peso Marketing Pvt Ltd, and Vedasuthra Herbal Healthcare, Peso Medicare Pvt Ltd, Peso Infrastructure Ltd, Kreez Nidhi Ltd, and Luxway Hotel & Resorts -- Kiran P P (33) of Kodungalloor, Anil Shivaji Jagadale alias Anil Subash (46) of Cherpu, Anil Kumar K B (57) of Paralam, Rajeevan Cheerambath (64) of Mulangu, his company Goodwin Packpet Pvt Ltd, private financier Satheesh Kumar P (56) of Kolazhi, CPM councillor of Wadakkanchery municipality Aravindakshan P R (57) of Paralikad, bank accountant Jilse C K (45) of Porathissery, Ramesh P V (52) of Karuvannur, Jacob Chackery (79) of Moorkanad, Sunil Kumar K D (55) of Manaloor, Gopalakrishnan O A (68) of Kodungallur, Abdul Gafoor (54) of Guruvayoor, Abdul Nazar P K (55) of Puthukkad, Paulson A J (63) of Kallettumkkara, Pradeep K K (41) of Kodassery, Alisabri (59) of Kattungachira, Davi Varghese (76) of Chellakkottukara, M J Abdul Khadher (60) of Manjummal in Ernakulam, Sunny Jacob (63) of Keezhillam in Ernakulam, Suresh Babu (64) of Thailikkulam in Thrissur, Satheesh P P (54) of Thottippal, Anirudhan K T (63) of Palazhy, Deepak Sathyapalan (46) of Kacheripady in Ernakulam, former bank secretary Sunil Kumar T R (60) of Madayikonam in Irinjalakkuda, former manager Biju M Kareem (48) of Mapranam in Irinjalakuda, C K Chandran (66) of Mapranam, former bank president and CPM leader K K Diwakaran (76) of Madayikonam, Baiju T S (47) of Madayikonam, Dinesh M B (46) of Porthissery, former director Lalithakumar V K (71) of Porathissery, Jose C A (62) of Mapranam, Ambily Mahesh (40) of Madayikonam, Mini Nandanam of Karuvannur, Poulose T R (75) of Mapranam, Kadhar Hussain (70) of Kattungachira in Irinjalakuda, Mahesh Korambil (45) of Mapranam, director Antu E C (64) of Moorkanad, Anitha Vidhyasagar (48) of Karuvannur, Chandrika Gopalakrishnan (65) of Madayikonam, Shalini V J (50) of Porathissery, former director Sugathan K V (54) of Moorkanad, Narayanan N of Mapranam, Aslam A M (61) of Kattungachira in Irinjalakuda, Jijoraj M A (48), private financier Satheesh Kumar P P's staffer and resident of Moorkanad, and Catrics Luminous & Solar Systems on CUSAT Road, South Kalamassery in Kochi and Flyon Cables in Kodungaloor, two firms owned by accused number 9, Kiran P P.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.