The Kerala High Court on Tuesday questioned the police about the delay in filing the final report in the 2017 sexual assault case, in which Malayalam actor Dileep is one of the accused, Live Law reported.

On February 17, 2017, an actor was allegedly kidnapped and sexually abused inside her car for two hours. There are 10 accused persons in the case and initially the police arrested seven people. Dileep was arrested subsequently and released on bail later. The accused persons had reportedly filmed the assault to blackmail the woman.

“We have to consider that the Supreme Court has extended the deadline to conclude the trial [in sexual assault case] four times already,” Justice Kauser Edappagath told the police during Tuesday’s hearing. “It cannot be extended one month after another. Why can’t you complete the investigation by the time the trial court has asked you to file the final report?”

March 1 was set as the deadline for completion of the trial. In a petition, Dileep contended that further investigation was not permissible as a final report had been filed in the matter in November 2017 and charges were framed in January 2020. The actor claimed that the police were carrying out “a series of vindictive acts” under the garb of inquiry.

Director General of Prosecution TA Shaji and Additional Public Prosecutor P Narayanan, representing the police, told the court on Tuesday that there was no legal impediment in extending the inquiry, especially when new evidence emerges, PTI reported.

In January, filmmaker Balachandrakumar had released a purported audio clip in which Dileep could be heard asking some persons to “wait to see how the five investigating officers are going to suffer”. Another person is reportedly heard saying that if a “truck is hitting Baiju Poulose [the deputy superintendent of police who investigated the sexual assault case], we would have to see another Rs 1.50 crore”.

After this, the Kerala Police’s Crime Branch had registered a new first information report against Dileep and others for allegedly conspiring to finish off the investigation officers.

At Tuesday’s hearing, the prosecution told the court that Dileep was an “extremely influential” person. “He influences minds and has massive clout,” Shaji added. “Balachandrakumar was just a common man when he heard of the conspiracy.”

The complainant also supported the police’s demand to carry out further inquiry, saying she wants a fair trail, according to PTI. She added that more time was necessary to find out the truth in the revelations by Balachandrakumar.

The police said it was not possible to finish the inquiry soon as it takes time to get reports from experts and examine digital evidence seized during the raids. The director general of prosecution said he would inform the court on Thursday about when the investigation can be completed.