Sexual assault case: Actor may access data of memory card

Malyalam actor Dileep

New Delhi,  The Supreme Court on Friday ruled that Malyalam actor Dileep will not get a copy of the memory card containing footage of the alleged sexual assault of an actress where he has been charged. However, the court allowed him to access the data on the card.

A bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari 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.”

The access to content is subject to some caveats in order to present an effective defence.

The south Indian actress was abducted and assaulted in a moving car on February 17, 2017. Dileep was arrested in July the same year.

The court observed that in cases involving issues such as privacy of the complainant/witness or his/her identity, it may be justified to provide only inspection thereof to the accused and his/her lawyer or expert for presenting effective defence during the trial.

Dileep has been allegedly named as a conspirator in the sexual assault. The actor has been charged with having indulged in a revenge crime.

The victim was allegedly assaulted in a moving car. The memory card was handed over to the magistrate by the lawyer of one of the accused, as the original mobile device which filmed the alleged assault was not recovered.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Dileep, had told the apex court the memory card is a ‘document’ under the Evidence Act and that he has a right to access it.

In June this year, the top court had stayed the trial against Dileep in the backdrop of its pending decision on the memory card.

In his petition, Dileep states that he has a right to get evidence relating to the case which includes the memory card in which the attack visuals have been stored.

Rohatgi argued that Dileep had the right to access all kinds of evidence that prosecution is producing against him. Dileep had argued before the apex court that the copy of the footage of the incident is “very essential and crucial” for him to prove his innocence in the case.

Dileep maintains the visuals had been manipulated and doctored to frame him. The government of Kerala has, however, opposed his plea for the copy of the visuals and accused him of being the “chief conspirator”.