The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to admit the Kerala government’s petition to transfer a judge in a trial court hearing the sexual assault case against cine star Dileep.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar found no ground to hold bias against the judge for his comments.
“You have picked up one statement of the judge to allege bias. What circumstances were created for making such statements…much depends on that. Where is the question of bias?” asked the bench, also comprising Justices BR Gavai and Krishna Murari.
Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the prosecution, told the court that in January the chargesheet was filed and a month later the prosecution moved an application for altering the charges. Till date, no decision has come on it.
Further, he claimed that a fair trial is not possible in the present court as the eighth accused, actor Dileep, alias P Gopalakrishnan, moved a petition to send the cloned copy of the seized memory card for a second examination by the central forensic sciences laboratory (CFSL) without supplying the same to the prosecution or victim. The copy of the CFSL report was not shared with the prosecution prior to the cross-examination, the petition stated.
“The procedure adopted by the presiding judge is to favour the eighth accused,” Kumar said, adding that on October 14 the presiding judge commented that what is happening in the court is not prosecution but ‘prostitution’. Before that, the judge ordered the prosecution witnesses not to meet the special public prosecutor.
The prosecution further stated that the trial judge had remained a “mute spectator” when the victim was “harassed and intimidated” by the lawyers of the accused during cross-examination.
The Supreme Court was not impressed by the allegations leveled by the state. “You are complicating your own case and creating pressure on the judge. Don’t make such allegations of bias. Let the courts function and judges do their job. As it is there is so much pressure and media hype created in this case and these allegations (of bias) will unnecessarily discourage the judge,” observed the bench.
The state was given the option either to substitute the special public prosecutor or approach the high court if the application seeking alteration of charges against the accused is not taken up.
“If the prosecutor is not comfortable, put someone else in his place but don’t make a grievance of bias against the judge,” said the court as it dismissed the appeal by the state government.
The order, however, clarified that the dismissal of the state’s appeal will not come in the way of the state to pursue its pending application before the trial judge or seek redressal against the adverse comments made by the presiding judge.
The state informed the apex court that it will require some time to replace the prosecutor appearing in the case.
According to the prosecution, the incident took place in February 2017. The victim, who has worked in several South Indian films, was abducted and allegedly molested inside her car. The accused had forced their way into the car on the night of February 17, 2017 and even filmed the entire incident to blackmail the actor. In all, there were ten accused of which police arrested seven persons. Actor Dileep was subsequently arrested and joined as the eighth accused. He was released on bail in October 2017 after being incarcerated for close to three months.