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The Supreme Court today held that Malayalam actor Dileep will not be allowed a copy of the memory card containing a video of the alleged sexual assault of an actress in which he has been implicated.
However, he has been granted permission to inspect the contents of the same – subject to some caveats – in order to present an effective defence.
The judgment was rendered by a Bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari in a plea filed by the actor who had sought access to a memory card which contains video footage of the assault in which he was named as a conspirator. The Court, partly allowing the plea, said,
“contents of the memory card/pen drive being electronic record must be regarded as a document. If the prosecution is relying on the same, ordinarily, the accused must be given a cloned copy thereof to enable him/her to present an effective defence during the trial. However, in cases involving issues such as of privacy of the complainant/witness or his/her identity, the Court may be justified in providing only inspection thereof to the accused and his/her lawyer or expert for presenting effective defence during the trial.”
The actor is charged with having indulged in a revenge crime against a female Malayalam actor wherein the victim was allegedly sexually assaulted in a moving car.
It was alleged that the victim had a role to play in Dileep’s separation from his former wife. Owing to this, it is claimed that to take revenge on the victim, Dileep orchestrated the abduction of the actress, during which nude photographs of her were taken. Six persons were nabbed and arrayed as accused in the case.
The memory card in question in the case containing video footage of the assault was handed over to the Magistrate by the lawyer of one of the accused. This was done considering that the original mobile device used to film the assault was not recoverable.
Dileep had sought access to this memory card but his plea was turned down by the Kerala High Court on the grounds that the same is not a “document” as under the Evidence Act. The High Court had also stated that the contents of the memory card are too sensitive to be released. This led to the petition in the Supreme Court.
Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing Dileep, had told the Court that the memory card is a ‘document’ under the Evidence Act and that he has a right to be supplied with the same, along with a copy of the police reports under Section 207 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
In June this year, the Supreme Court had stayed the trial against Dileep pending its decision on the question of the memory card.