Dileep may get double life term if convicted in assault case, but lack of credible witness a concern

TK Devasia

Nov,23 2017 16:13 18 IST

Nine months after a South Indian actress was abducted and sexually assaulted in the port city of Kochi, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Kerala police has filed the chargesheet arraigning popular actor Dileep as the key conspirator.

This is the second charge sheet in the sensational case that rocked the southern state in February this year. The first chargesheet was filed on 19 April booking Sunil Kumar aka Pulsar Suni as first accused and six others on various charges, including gangrape, kidnapping and criminal conspiracy.

In addition to the charges levelled against Pulsar Suni, additional charges of abetment of crime and harbouring of offender have also been slapped on the actor. He is listed as the eighth accused in the 1,652-page supplementary chargesheet and may have to undergo double life term if convicted.

Dileep is the 8th accused in the Malayalam actress assault case.

The chargesheet said that Dileep had hatched a conspiracy with Pulsar Suni to harm the actress as he suspected her to be responsible for the breakdown of his marriage with fellow actress Manju Warrier. Accrding to the chargesheet, the friction in the married life of the couple started after the assault victim revealed to Manju Warrier her husband’s alleged extra-marital relationship with his current wife Kavya Madhavan.

The chargesheet said this grudge was the main motive of Dileep for the sexual assault. He wanted the assault visuals before the marriage of the survivor as he wanted to take revenge against her by thwarting her marital life. The chargesheet also said Dileep had tried to sabotage the survivor’s film career by using his clout in the film industry to deny her films.

The name of the actor cropped up in the case after a letter purported to have been written to him by Pulsar Suni from prison reminding him about the money he offered for the job and a selfie taken by a fan with the actor showing Suni in the background on the sets of a film surfaced in the media. This nailed Dileep’s claim that he did not know Suni.

Dileep was arrested after two rounds of interrogation. One lasted as many as 13 hours.

The SIT had planned to go for trial keeping Dileep in jail but the plan failed after the high court granted him bail on the 85th day of his detention.

The SIT took another nearly two months to file the supplementary chargesheet. Has it helped them to solidify their case? Experts are divided over the reliability of the evidences gathered by the SIT.

The chargesheet has listed 355 persons as witnesses and two approvers. It also contains 12 confidential statements and 400 documents, including scientific evidence.

Subhash Babu, a former superintendent of police, said the biggest weakness in the case is the excessive reliability on the statement of the key accused, who has a long criminal record. He told a local television channel that it will be difficult to prove the conspiracy charge merely on the basis of the statement of the co-accused.

The chargesheet does not seem to contain any credible and stable witnesses. Some important witnesses have already turned hostile. A key witness to change stance is Sagar Vincent, a former employee of Laksyah, a boutique run by Kavya Madhavan, who had earlier stated seeing Suni and second accused Vigeesh visiting the shop at Kakkanad in Ernakulam.

The footage of the CCTV there was also found missing. Lakshya is treated as an important part of the investigation as the police believe that some transactions and meetings between the suspects have taken place there.

Another witness who the police relied on to establish the conspiracy in the case is one Charlie, who allegedly sheltered Pulsar Suni and his associates in Coimbatore after the attack. He had told the police earlier that Suni had confided to him about Dileep’s role in the case and shown the assault visuals.

Charlie was supposed to give a confidential statement under Section to 164. But, he later refused to do so. The investigating officers have suspected Dileep’s hand in the change in Charlie’s stance.

Experts are also doubtful about the reliability of several witnesses included in the chargesheet. As many as 50 witnesses in the case are from the film fraternity, who have connections with Dileep. A key witness is Manju Warrier, who was the first to talk about a conspiracy in the case.

She had said in her statement to the police that Dileep was paranoid, and suspected everyone. The statement included in the chargesheet said his suspicion that the assault survivor had wrecked their marriage was wrong. She said that the survivor had not revealed anything to her about Dileep’s extra marital affairs.

Subhash Babu feels that the conspiracy case would collapse if Manju does not stand by the prosecution. He is doubtful whether she will indict Dileep since her daughter is living with him. Members of the film industry also share the concern.

Noted director Baiju Kottarakkara said that the motherly feeling she has towards her daughter may play when Manju stands in the witness box during trial. “We cannot blame her if she does not reveal everything she knows about Dileep as her daughter will be alone if Dileep goes to jail” said Baiju.

However, Advocate Ajay Kumar said there was no reason to doubt Manju as she has always stood for justice. He said that the court may also appreciate her limitations. He said the case will not collapse even if Manju sides with her former husband.

“Manju’s statement is not related to commission of offence. The prosecution needs her statement to support the motive behind the case. The statement of the assault survivor alone is sufficient to prove the motive,” he added.

“There are lot of other witnesses and corroborative evidence with the police to back the conspiracy charge. The first accused himself can turn an approver in the course of the trial. We cannot rule out this possibility since Suni will get a life-term if he is convicted. If he wishes to turn an approver Dileep’s counsels cannot do anything,” he added.

The lawyer said the confidential statements given by a police official, whose mobile phone Suni used to talk to Dileep when he accompanied him to the court, as well as Suni’s jail mate who wrote the letter to Dileep for Suni alone were sufficient to implicate Dileep.

Ajay Kumar said that the witnesses, who have turned hostile, may also not be able to hold their ground when they will be cross-examined by the prosecution. He pointed out that the police had already expressed doubt that they had taken the U turn under the influence of Dileep.

The police took up this in the high court last week when Dileep sought permission to visit Dubai terming the alleged influence of the witnesses as a violation of the bail condition. Viewing the allegation seriously, the court has asked the police to move the magistrate’s court for cancellation of the bail.

However, the police have not made any move to file a petition in this regard. Film industry personnel supporting Dileep said this was because the police had no evidence to support their allegation. Film producer Saji Nambiat, who has been defending Dileep from the beginning, said it was a cooked-up charge with ulterior motives.

He said that the entire case against Dileep is a fabricated one. The trial will prove this, he added.