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Kerala HC Judge Recuses From Hearing Survivor's Plea in Actor Assault Case Trial

The survivor has moved the Kerala HC alleging political interference in the hearing of the sexual assault case.

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India
3 min read
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A day after the survivor filed an application in the Kerala High Court alleging political conspiracy in the ongoing trial in the 2017 sexual assault case, Justice Kauser Edappagath has recused himself from hearing her petition.

The judge’s recusal comes days before the Kerala Crime Branch was scheduled to submit before the Kerala High Court a report after concluding its further investigation into the 2017 sexual assault case following new revelations by Malayalam actor Dileep’s friend and film-maker Balachandra Kumar.

The survivor has moved the Kerala High Court alleging political interference in the hearing of the sexual assault case. She alleged in her petition a bias and misconduct by the judge hearing her case – Judge Honey M Varghese – by not revealing a forensic report she has had since 2017. She asked the high court to ensure that the trial in her case doesn’t end prematurely. She has also asked the high court to direct the trial court to release a forensic analysis report that the judge, Honey Varghese, has been holding on to for several months.

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The Judge's Recusal

Justice Kauser Edappagath recused from hearing the case after the petitioner's lawyer made the request in open court during the day. The survivor had submitted an application to the high court Registrar seeking that the plea is not heard by Justice Edappagath. Subsequently, her lawyer urged that the matter be heard by another judge. In view of the request, Justice Edappagath recused from hearing the matter.

Justice Kauser Edappagath was the Ernakulam principal and sessions judge when the pen drive containing the visuals of the sexual assault was in the custody of the court, between March 2018 and March 2019.

According to the prosecution, the visuals were recorded by ‘Pulsar’ Suni, who handed over the pen drive to his lawyer, who in turn submitted it to the Angamaly magistrate court. While a forensic examination was being carried out, the pen drive was sealed so as to protect the memory card from any kind of illegal access or tampering. From March 2018 to March 2019, the memory card and pen drive were stored in the Ernakulam principal and sessions court.

According to a media report, in this period, the memory card was accessed once. In March 2019, it was transferred to Judge Honey Varghese’s court.

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What Did the Survivor's Plea Say?

The survivor's plea before the high court seeking the judge’s recusal and the court’s investigation came a day after the Crime Branch has reportedly decided to wind up the investigation into a related case of alleged tampering of digital evidence.

"It is painfully submitted that the Government of Kerala which gave support to the cause of the petitioner/victim at the initial stage and allowed a fair investigation in the case by police officers of high integrity and took credit of the investigation politically has backtracked from its constitutional legal commitment of conducting a free, fair and complete investigation in the case," she said in the petition.

The petition also alleges that Dileep has “unlawfully influenced some of the politicians of the ruling front in the state and attempted to interfere with the further investigation in the case and prematurely close the same.”

"...it is reliably learned that the prosecution, as well as the investigation agency, are now threatened by the political higher-ups to end the investigation halfway and file the additional final report in a half-cooked manner. This clearly establishes the illegal nexus between the accused and the ruling front," the plea has said.

(Published in an arrangement with The News Minute.)

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