On Wednesday, the Kerala High Court granted anticipatory bail to Malayalam actor-producer Vijay Babu in a rape case registered against him after an actress accused him of sexually exploiting her. (Vijay Babu vs. State of Kerala)
The Hon'ble Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas delivered the judgement granting pre-arrest bail subject to certain conditions.
The order states that,
"Considering the circumstances of the case, I am of the view that pre arrest bail can be granted subject to the condition of limited custody to the investigating officer as contemplated in the decision of the Supreme Court in Sushila Agarwal's case."
The Kerala High Court imposed the following conditions for release on bail:
- Petitioner shall surrender before the investigating officer (IO) on June 27 at 9 am for interrogation;
- Petitioner can be interrogated for the next seven days that is from June 27 to July 3, both days inclusive, from 9 am to 7 pm everyday;
- Petitioner shall be deemed to be under custody during the aforesaid period for facilitating requirements of investigation;
- If the investigating officer intends to arrest the petitioner then he shall be released on bail on the petitioner executing a bond for ₹5 lakh with two solvent sureties each with the like sum;
- Petitioner shall appear before IO as and when called for;
- Petitioner shall not call or interact with the victim or any witness or attempt to do so;
- Petitioner shall not indulge in any form of attack through social media or other modes against the victim or her family; and
- Petitioner shall not leave the state of Kerala without prior permission of jurisdictional court and shall cooperate with the investigation.
The first accusation against Babu was filed as a result of #MeToo revelations made by a debutante actress who claimed he sexually exploited her while pretending to be interested in casting her in roles. The police issued a lookout notice for Babu after a first information report (FIR) was filed since it appeared that he was fleeing. Later, Babu went on Facebook Live to deny all of the accusations made against him and, more importantly, to disclose the survivor's name while warning of potential legal consequences.
Then, in accordance with Section 228A (disclosure of the identity of the victim in certain offences) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, a different FIR was filed against him. The Court recently closed the anticipatory bail plea in this case, noting that the claimed offence is an available one.
In the rape case, Babu first requested anticipatory bail from the court, claiming that the accusation against him was an attempt at blackmail and that there had never been a non-consensual relationship.
The argument, made by the counsel S. Rajeev, claimed that the police were being led by the intense media focus and rumours surrounding the case.
In order for Babu to return from Dubai, where he had been since the complaint was filed, the court granted him interim protection from arrest on May 31.
Both the de facto complainant, who was represented by counsel R Rajesh, and the state prosecution, which was led by Additional Director General of Prosecution (ADGP) Senior Advocate Gracious Kuriakose, opposed the bail request.
Rajesh argued against the bail request by pointing out the relative positions of Babu and the complainant, a new actress, in the film industry. He also discussed the subjugation the complainant experienced as a result of this power balance.
Since Babu had admitted to the police that he had had sexual contact with the complainant, he contended that the evidence presented by her should be viewed without prejudice.