Actor assault case: Setback for Dileep as HC seeks report on change of memory card hash value

Actor Dileep. Photo: Manorama

Kochi: In a setback to actor Dileep in the actress assault case, the High Court on Thursday asked the district sessions judge to file a report in a month regarding the alleged change of the hash value of the memory card containing the visuals of the assault, while it was in the custody of the court.

The hash value changes when a memory card is used in different devices to access the content.

Giving its verdict on the plea filed by the survivor that the memory card -- treated as evidence in the case against actor Dileep -- was inspected while it was kept in the court's chest, the high court said it viewed the alleged tampering a serious issue.

The survivor had approached the High Court demanding to find out who checked the memory card while in the custody of the trial court. The actress demanded a court-supervised investigation. This was accepted by the court.

If necessary, the district judge can seek help from police or other probe agencies, the High Court said. The order also says that if she has complaints, the survivor can again approach the High Court.

The eighth accused in the case, Dileep, who is accused of hatching the criminal conspiracy behind the attack, also moved a plea recently to stop the hearing in the plea regarding leakage of visuals of the incident. The actor alleges that the enquiry into the incident is being demanded by the prosecution to prolong the trial.

Advocate Gaurav Agarwal appearing on behalf of the survivor had submitted that the memory card had been accessed three times while in court custody. He submitted that on the first instance on January 9, 2018, two files had been created in the memory card while it was in the custody of Angamali Judicial First Class Magistrate Court, and on the second instance on December 13, 2018, at 10.58 pm, three files were created in the memory card while it was in the custody of the District Principal Sessions Court, and was accessed on a device having Android Operating System. The third instance as per the counsel was on July 19, 2021, when 34 new files were created upon being accessed via a Vivo Mobile phone having Android OS.

He added that it had been established by the SFSL report that the hash value had been changed, and also stated the reason for the same as being illegal access during the period of the custody of the memory card in different courts.

Agarwal had submitted that the same would amount to offences under Sections 378 (theft), 405 r/w 408 (criminal breach of trust), 411 (Dishonestly receiving stolen property), and 425 (Mischief) of the IPC and Sections 66B (Punishment for dishonestly receiving stolen computer resource or communication device), 66E (Punishment for violation of privacy), and 67 (Punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form) of the IT Act, 2000, and Section 119 (Punishment for atrocities against women) of the Kerala Police Act.

The Apex Court had earlier directed the trial in the matter to be completed by July 31, 2023. The Bench of Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjay Kumar also asked the Trial Judge to submit a fresh report on the progress of the trial by August 4, 2023.

The Supreme Court subsequently extended the time till March 31, 2024, after accepting the report of the Trial Court Judge Honey M Varghese bringing to the attention of the former that further time was required in the trial to complete the examination of witnesses.
(With LiveLaw inputs)

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