The Supreme Court on Friday allowed Kerala actor Dileep, accused in the 2017 abduction and assault of an actress, to seek the opinion of an expert body like the Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory (CFSL) on the contents of a memory card relied upon by the prosecution, but turned down his request to provide him a copy of the card, citing the victim’s privacy.
A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari said this would balance the right of the accused to a fair trial and the victim’s right of privacy.
In February 2017, the actress was allegedly abducted and assaulted by eight accused, and the act was allegedly filmed on a cellphone to blackmail her.
On Friday, the bench agreed with the contention of senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Dileep, that the contents of the memory card would constitute a “document” under the Indian Evidence Act, but added that “considering that this is a peculiar case of intra-conflict of fundamental rights flowing from Article 21, that is right to a fair trial of the accused and right to privacy of the victim, it is imperative to adopt an approach which would balance both the rights.”
The court said, “In conclusion, we hold that the contents of the memory card/pen drive, being an 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 … 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…”