The Supreme Court on Monday said it would consider extending time for completion of trial in a case, in which Malayalam actor Dileep and others are accused, if the trial judge makes such a request and not at the instance of the state of Kerala.
The apex court observed this while hearing an application filed by the state seeking extension of time for completion of trial in the 2017 case of alleged abduction and assault on an actress.
A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and C T Ravikumar disposed of the application filed by Kerala with liberty to the trial court judge to submit report for extension of time if it is felt necessary.
We leave it to the discretion of the trial court to take appropriate view of the matter in that regard, the bench said.
In February 2017, a Malayalam film actress was allegedly abducted and molested by eight accused. The entire act had allegedly taken place in a moving vehicle and was purportedly filmed to blackmail her.
P Gopalkrishnan alias Dileep was subsequently arrested and arrayed as an accused in connection with an FIR lodged for alleged offences, including under certain provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Information and Technology Act, 2000.
On a plea filed earlier by Dileep, the apex court had in November 2019 delivered judgement in which it had directed the trial court to ensure that trial in the case is concluded expeditiously, preferably within six months from the date of its verdict.
During the hearing on Monday, the counsel appearing for Kerala said they have filed an application seeking extension of time by six more months for completion of the trial.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the accused, opposed the state's application and said it is attempting to delay the trial by various methods.
The first method was to ask for change of the trial judge. That was refused by the High Court and the Supreme Court, he said, adding that the public prosecutor had resigned and further time was taken.
Rohatgi, who argued that the state is conducting a media trial in the case, said four extensions have already been given.
Mr Rohatgi, what we are saying is, we will not pass order of extension at the instance of the state. If the judge so desires, he can make a report and ask for appropriate directions, the bench observed.
The state's counsel said if somebody has given some evidence and if that is not investigated, then the job is left incomplete.
In its November 2019 verdict, the apex court had held that contents of a memory card or pen drive are electronic records and must be treated as "document" under the Indian Evidence Act.
It had said if the contents of memory card/pen drive are being relied upon by the prosecution in a criminal case, then the accused must be given a cloned copy thereof to enable him/her to present an effective defence during the trial.
Dileep was arrested in July 2017 and let out on bail by the high court on October 3 same year. Seven other persons were arrested in connection with the case.
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.