The Kerala High Court on Monday granted bail to Manikandan, the third accused in the case of the abduction and sexual assault of a female Malayalam actor in which actor Dileep is the eighth accused.
Justice Sunil Thomas, who granted him bail, observed that Manikandan has been in jail since 2017, for nearly four and a half years, and has no prior criminal record.
Further, the judge noted that Manikandan’s role in the alleged crime “stands on a slightly lesser footing than that of the main act committed by the prime accused.”
The case so far
A female Malayalam actor was abducted on February 17, 2017, while she was travelling from Kochi to Thrissur in Kerala. She was sexually assaulted and then dropped off. Soon after the incident, the first accused in the case, Pulsar Suni, the driver of the vehicle she was assaulted in, was arrested. In June 2017, Suni said that actor Dileep had conspired in the assault.
On July 20, 2017, Dileep was arrested as the eighth accused in the case. He was later granted bail in October 2017.
Manikandan has been charged with taking the control of the victim’s vehicle from Suni at the time of the molestation.
Manikandan’s bail hearing
Manikandan’s counsel had contended that he could only be charged with the offence of aiding the prime accused and added that he has already undergone a substantial period of detention, which is more than one half of the maximum punishment that can be granted under law if found guilty of that charge.
However, the public prosecutor had argued that with the trail still in progress, releasing Manikandan at this stage could prejudice the trial. The prosecutor also pointed out that the court had recently rejected the bail plea of the second accused in the case – Martin Antony.
After considering all the points, the judge ruled that since the possibility of the trial taking more time cannot be completely ruled out, the continuation of Manikandan’s detention may not be just.
The judge also noted that out of the 360 witnesses, 180 witnesses have been examined.
In December 2019, the Supreme Court set the deadline for the Ernakulam Addition Special Sessions Court to complete the trial in six months. After a hiatus, the trial resumed in January 2020. However, the deadline was extended by another six months in August 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Supreme Court had then said the trial should end by February 4, 2021.
However, in August, the Supreme Court gave the district court yet another extension of six months to complete the trial.