Kerala High Court. (PTI)
Kochi: The Kerala High Court on Thursday said it will not stay the Crime Branch probe against actor Dileep and others in the case accusing them of conspiring to kill and threaten officials investigating the 2017 actress assault case.
"The investigation cannot be stayed," Justice K Haripal said after the lawyers appearing for the actor and other accused sought a stay of the probe till the court finally hears and decides Dileep's plea to quash the case or transfer the matter to CBI.
Senior advocate B Raman Pillai and advocates Philip T Varghese and Thomas T Varghese, appearing for the actor and the other accused, sought a stay of the probe after the court said that the matter requires detailed hearing and therefore, it can be taken up after the High Court's summer vacation from April 11 to May 17.
As the court declined to pass any interim order staying the probe, the actor's lawyers sought an earlier date of hearing saying that there was urgency in the matter.
The court granted the request for an earlier date of hearing and listed the matter on March 28 for final arguments.
Dileep has contended in the court that the Crime Branch has levelled "false and fabricated" allegations of destruction of evidence against him and the other accused as well as their lawyers.
The actor, in his reply to a recent statement filed by the Crime Branch, has claimed that the agency and its officers investigating the latest case against him, were "peddling lies after lies".
The Crime Branch statement, filed through additional public prosecutor P Narayanan, had come in response to Dileep's plea to quash the murder conspiracy FIR or transfer the probe to CBI.
The agency had alleged in its statement that Dileep's plea to quash the FIR was a "bundle of lies and distorted facts."
It had claimed that the actor and the other accused as well as their lawyers were involved in tampering or destruction of the evidence in the case.
Denying the allegations, the actor has contended that baseless accusations have been "fabricated" by the investigating agency with regard to the phones submitted by him and others, including his brother and brother-in-law, for forensic analysis.
In his reply, the actor has said the purpose of the forensic examination of the phones "presently and recently used by the accused" was not to find out material regarding the 2017 case, but to conduct a "roving enquiry" into the data contained in them for making false allegations.
"The dishonest nature of the investigation, which has become the trademark of the respondents 2,3 and 5 (police officials), is evident from the stories planted by them in the media about the phones of the accused.
"The allegation that the petitioner (Dileep) and other accused removed and concealed their mobile phones within a few days of disclosure of offences by Balachandra Kumar is an incorrect and misleading statement," the actor has said in his reply.
It was based on certain revelations by Kumar that the police initiated further probe in the 2017 case and also lodged a fresh FIR with regard to alleged conspiracy to murder and intimidate the officials investigating the earlier matter.
The actor has claimed that the mobile phones were sent to a mobile forensic expert to extract data from them regarding communications with Kumar to confront him with the same if he was made a prosecution witness and the decision to do so was taken much before the fresh case was registered.
He also claimed that extraction, restoration or deletion of data from a phone by its user was neither clandestine nor illegal and regarding the clearing of 12 WhatsApp messages from his phone, the actor has contended that the same is a regular process adopted by many users of the messaging platform.
The actor also contended that "no tampering of any of the phones or shredding of any data from the phones has been detected by the FSL", contrary to the "vague and false" claims by the Crime Branch.
He has further claimed, in his reply, that the allegation of Crime Branch that the actor's lawyers assisted in destruction of prosecution evidence was "fanciful, preposterous and baseless".
"Such an allegation has been recklessly and irresponsibly fabricated so as to scandalize them," Dileep has claimed.
Meanwhile, the actress-victim has lodged a complaint with the Bar Council of Kerala against senior advocate B Raman Pillai and the other lawyers who represent Dileep and the other accused, and has sought an enquiry into whether there was any professional misconduct by them.
The complaint was returned by the lawyers body saying that it was not filed in accordance with the rules and asked her to re-file it.
The actor and five others were booked under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, including Sections 116 (abetment), 118 (concealing design to commit offence), 120B (criminal conspiracy), 506 (criminal intimidation), and 34 (criminal act done by several people).
The actress-victim, who has worked in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam films, was abducted and allegedly molested in her car for two hours by some persons 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 those persons to blackmail the actress.
There are 10 accused in the 2017 case and police have arrested seven. Dileep was arrested subsequently and released on bail.