HC defers trial in actress sexual assault case till Friday

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Kochi, Nov 2 (PTI) The Kerala High Court on Monday deferred till Friday the trial in the 2017 actress sexual assault case following allegations by her and the prosecution that the trial court was biased, hostile and partisan in the conduct of the proceedings.

Justice V G Arun passed the interim order on a plea filed by the actress seeking transfer of the trial in the case, in which popular Malayalam actor Dileep is among the accused, to another court and posted the matter to November 6 for further hearing.

Endorsing the allegations levelled by the actress against the trial court, the state government also sought transfer of the case to another court.

The counsel for the state government submitted the trial court Judge and the prosecutor were at loggerheads.

The transfer will not affect the deadline set by the Supreme Court to complete the case, the counsel said.

The apex court has directed the trial court to dispose of the case on or before February 4, 2021.

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. There are ten accused in the case and initially, police arrested seven people. Dileep was arrested subsequently and let out on bail later.

In April this year, the high court had allowed a petition by the actress seeking appointment of a woman judge for conducting the trial and ordered CBI special court Judge-III Ernakulam to complete the in-cameral trial expeditiously.

In her latest plea filed last week, the actress alleged she was aggrieved by the biased and hostile attitude of the trial court and that it sat like a mute spectator when she was being examined and harassed by the counsel for Dileep.

She complained that the trial court failed to restrict the number of lawyers for the accused present inside the court hall when she was being examined and failed to uphold the spirit of in-camera trial.

The state government, in its October 27 memorandum seeking transfer of the trial, submitted it was aggrieved by the 'biased, hostile and partisan' conduct of the trial court.

The trial court judge has been harassing and shouting at certain prosecution witnesses without any reason whatsoever and had also declined to record an important testimony of a witness in the case during the trial, it charged.

The court acted like a mute spectator when the victim was being examined and harassed by Dileep's counsel, it alleged.

'The victim herself was narrating the acts of sexual offence committed upon her by identifying the visuals recorded by the first accused. The ordeal of the victim in watching and identifying the visuals recorded by the accused itself is a crucification and secondary victimisation.

'Even though it was an in-camera proceedings, 17 advocates were present for accusedof which eight were of the eighth accused (Dileep), which was also objected by the prosecutor,' the memorandum said.

The government noted that the Supreme Court and the high court had earlier intervened and issued orders with respect to the trial which pointed to the importance of the case. PTI CORR TGB VS VS