Justice delayed is justice denied. It has been almost five years since a Malayalam female actor was abducted and sexually assaulted in a moving car in Kochi. As of today, the trial is still underway, with hundreds of witnesses examined and several major arrests. Accusations and revelations are still being made.
At the end of 2021, the case gained momentum again with some serious allegations levelled against actor Dileep – one of the accused – by filmmaker Balachandra Kumar, who claims to be the actor’s former friend. Following this, a fresh probe was ordered and a new investigative team has been appointed by the Kerala government.
We give you here a timeline of the major events related to the case over the past five years:
February 17: A female actor who predominantly works in Malayalam and Kannada cinema is abducted and sexually assaulted in a moving car by a gang of men while en route to Kochi from Thrissur. She files a police complaint on the same day and an FIR is registered.
February 18: The actor’s driver, Martin Antony, is arrested, followed by the arrest of two others, namely Vadivel Salim and Pradeep. Upon interrogation, it is found that the crime was planned by the actor’s former driver, Pulsar Suni.
February 23: Pulsar Suni is taken into police custody just as he is going to surrender before the additional chief judicial magistrate in Ernakulam.
April 18: Police file the first charge sheet in the case against Pulsar Suni and six other accused.
May 18: A group of female artists and technicians from the Malayalam film industry, including actors Manju Warrier, Parvathy Thiruvothu, Rima Kallingal, Geethu Mohandas, and editor Bina Paul, announce the formation of Women in Cinema Collective (WCC), an organisation for women working in Malayalam cinema. They meet Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and raise concerns about problems faced by women in the film industry. The WCC also begins a social media campaign called Avalodoppam (With Her), in solidarity with the survivor.
June 24: A letter supposedly written by Suni from Kakkanad jail to Dileep is leaked. This brings the case back into the limelight. Following this, the actor and his close friend, filmmaker Nardishah, tell the media that they were blackmailed by an aide of Suni for Rs 1.5 crore.
June 26: In an interview with a news outlet, Dileep alleges that the victim was friends with the main accused, Pulsar Suni, and adds that one should be extremely careful while choosing friends.
June 27: The survivor slams Dileep for defaming her in the interview and warns of legal action for spreading baseless rumours about her.
July 6: During an interrogation, Suni confesses that he had contacted Nadirshah and Dileep’s manager, Appunni, from Kakkanad jail, Kochi.
July 10: Dileep is arrested for allegedly orchestrating the abduction and sexual assault of the female actor. The remand report notes that Dileep offered Rs 2 crore to the prime accused, Pulsar Suni, to attack the female actor and shoot a video of her. While Dileep had initially told the police that he never met Suni, the police investigation reveals that the two knew each other from at least 2013.
July 11: Following his arrest, Dileep is sent to Aluva sub-jail. AMMA sacks Dileep from the post of treasurer and expels him from the association as well.
July 13: The survivor, in a press release, says that she had no business dealings with Dileep. She adds that their friendship had gone awry and that his arrest shocked her, too.
July 31: Dileep’s manager Apunni, who absconded soon after the actor’s arrest, finally appears for questioning at the Aluva Police club.
August 2: Police questions Madhu Warrier, brother of Dileep’s ex-wife Manju Warrier.
September 2: The court in Kochi allows Dileep a two-hour break from jail to take part in his father’s remembrance day prayers on September 6.
September 27: The prosecution informs the Kerala High Court that Dileep offered Rs 3 crore for the abduction of the female actor in February.
September 28, Amidst calls for a boycott, Dileep’s film Ramaleela releases in theatres.
October 3: After 85 days in jail, Dileep is granted bail by the Kerala High Court based on his fifth plea overall and the third before the HC. The actors’ fans and friends crowd the premises of the prison to welcome him.
November 1: Women in Cinema Collective is registered as a society in Kerala.
June 28: Four members of WCC – actors Rima Kallingal, Geetu Mohandas, Remya Nambeesan, and the survivor – resign from AMMA. The artists declare that they will continue fighting for justice outside AMMA.
August 14: The Kerala High Court rejects Dileep’s plea seeking a copy of the visuals of the attack on the female actor. The court concurs with the prosecution’s argument that providing it would be an intrusion into the privacy of the victim.
December 19: The Kerala High Court rejects Dileep’s plea seeking a CBI investigation into the case. The actor, who is the eighth accused in the case, had claimed in his plea that he was being framed in the case by the Kerala police.
February 25: In view of a plea from the survivor, the Kerala High Court allows a woman judge to preside over the case. Justice Raja Vijayaraghavan allocates the case to CBI special court judge Honey M Varghese.
March 7: The Kerala HC slams actor Dileep for trying to delay trial proceedings in the actor assault case. This is in response to his plea against the court’s order to complete the trial in six months.
April 9: The Kerala government informs the Supreme Court that it will not frame charges against Dileep until the court disposes of the actor’s petition for a copy of the visuals of the assault.
May 3: The Supreme Court stays the trial against Dileep in the Malayalam actor assault case to decide on his plea for a copy of the visuals. The order is issued after the Kerala government asks for more time to present its argument that the memory card containing video footage of the alleged assault is evidence in the case and not a document that can be handed over to the accused.
November 29: The Supreme Court rejects Dileep’s plea to access the memory card containing video clippings of the assault due to privacy and safety concerns of the survivor. However, he is allowed to inspect the visuals.
January 4: The trial court dismisses Dileep’s petition seeking a discharge in the actor abduction case.
February 27: Actor Manju Warrier is cross-examined by former husband Dileep’s counsel.
March 9: Actor Bindu Panicker turns hostile witness during examination in court. Earlier, Idavela Babu, AMMA’s general secretary, had also given contradictory statements during his examination the prior week.
October 28: The survivor moves the Kerala High Court seeking a transfer of the trial to another court, complaining that she was treated with hostility during the hearing of the case.
November 20: Kerala High Court refuses to transfer the case to another court.
November 23: A Sureshan, the special public prosecutor in the actor abduction and sexual assault case, resigns following the High Court’s refusal to transfer the trial.
December 1: After the Kerala HC’s refusal to transfer the case, the Kerala government moves the Supreme Court by filing a Special Leave Petition. The SC later rejects the State’s plea and upholds the decision of the HC.
January 21: After three months of hiatus, the trial of the case resumes at Additional Special Sessions Court in Ernakulam. However, it comes to a halt after accused-turned-approver Vipin Lal fails to turn up at court.
February 25: The court rejects the prosecution’s petition to cancel the bail granted to Dileep. The petition had requested the cancellation of Dileep’s bail because he tried to influence some of the witnesses in the case.
March 1: The Supreme Court gives the Ernakulam Addition Special Sessions Court an extension of six months to complete the trial.
August 10: Actor Kavya Madhavan, wife of actor Dileep, appears before the Ernakulam Additional Special Sessions Court and is questioned.
August 16: The Supreme Court gives the Ernakulam Addition Special Sessions Court yet another extension of six months to complete the trial.
November 15: The Kerala High Court grants bail to Manikandan, the third accused in the case.
December 25: Filmmaker Balachandra Kumar, who claims to be a former friend of Dileep, alleges in a media interaction that Dileep had watched the video of the sexual assault at his house. He also says the actor knew Pulsar Suni and that Dileep influenced some of the significant witnesses in the case, who later turned hostile during the trial. Balachandra Kumar also submits a complaint to the chief minister and the chief of police.
December 28: The Kerala High Court seeks a response from actor Dileep and the other accused on two separate petitions from the prosecution. One petition is regarding the state government’s appeal against the trial court’s orders declining the plea to summon further witnesses in the case and the other is about getting certified copies of the call records of the accused.
December 29: WCC, through social media, seeks the intervention of the Kerala CM for a thorough investigation and a fair trial. The body also asks if the law and order machinery of the state has acknowledged Balachandra Kumar’s testimony against the accused and questions why the mainstream media is not giving adequate attention to this matter.
December 30: Special Public Prosecutor VN Anilkumar resigns. While the reason for his resignation is unclear, reports cite an argument with the judge the previous day.
January: The survivor writes to the CM seeking further investigation in the case in view of the recent revelations made by director Balachandra Kumar. She urges the CM to appoint an able SPP to take her case forward. Vanitha Magazine, a popular Malayalam women’s magazine, faces backlash on social media for featuring actor Dileep and his family in its January issue cover story. The interview in its entirety seems to be an attempt at whitewashing the Janapriya Nayakan’s accused image.
January 4: Police submits Balachandra Kumar’s statement to the Ernakulam Additional Special Sessions Court. The court directs the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to further investigate and file a report by January 20.
January 7: Kerala High Court asks the prosecution how filmmaker Balachandra Kumar’s revelations about Dileep would help them in the trial and adds that adequate reasons are needed to recall and re-examine the witnesses.
January 9: The Kerala Crime Branch files a new FIR against Dileep and five others for allegedly conspiring to kill the officers who investigated his involvement in the female actor abduction and sexual assault case. The new case is registered following the release of audio clips implicating the accused by Balachandra Kumar. A new investigation team – including members of the previous team who were allegedly plotted against by Dileep and his associates – is formed by the Kerala government to probe the case in view of these developments.
January 10: Breaking her long silence, the female actor who was abducted and sexually assaulted in February 2017 publicly opens up for the first time, through her official social media account. In the Instagram post, the survivor extends her gratitude to all those who have supported her. Her post is reshared by many artists in the industry, including Mammootty and Mohanlal.
That same day, Dileep files for anticipatory bail at the Kerala High Court in the new FIR against him for allegedly conspiring to kill the investigating officers.
January 11: The bail plea comes up for hearing, but Dileep’s counsel informs the court that senior advocate B Raman Pillai, who was supposed to lead the case, is unwell. The court thus adjourns the matter to January 14 and orders that no action be taken against the actor till then.
January 12: Urging for consequential action, WCC puts out a statement questioning how the recent wave of support for the survivor and the expressions of solidarity will translate into real-world actions and systemic change.
January 13: The Kerala crime branch launches a raid of actor Dileep’s residence in Aluva, his production company’s office and his brother’s Anoop’s house to search for an unlicensed pistol that Balachandra Kumar said the actor had. After almost eight hours of the raid, officials seize mobile phones and computer hard disks. No pistol was found.
(This is an ongoing story that is periodically updated)