KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Monday observed that the forensic report filed by the prosecution itself stated that there is no change in the hash value of the eight files of the video clippings in the 2017 actress abduction and sexual assault case, indicating that there was no manipulation in the video content.
A hash value is a number that is often represented as a sequence of characters and is produced by an algorithm based upon the digital contents of a drive, medium, or file. The data copied from electronic devices, storage media, and electronic files are ordinarily authenticated by 'hash value'.
The forensic report stated that the hash value of the memory card was only changed. "Then how can the prosecution disown the report submitted by themselves?" asked the court. However, the counsel for the survivor stated that the memory card contains the visuals of rape committed on her and if these were leaked, what would be her future?
The court also flayed the prosecution for accusing the trial court that it is delaying the process and observed that "you (prosecution) cannot say that the trial court is delaying the trial. You cannot say this against a judicial officer. The court will not tolerate this. I will not permit a judicial officer to be attacked like this," orally observed Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas.
The court made the observation when the petition filed by the state government challenging the order of Ernakulam Additional Special Court rejecting the plea to forward the memory card in which the alleged rape of the actor was recorded for forensic examination came up for hearing. The court also considered the petition filed by the survivor alleging political interference in the probe.
The crime branch stated that during the examination of the memory card in FSL, Thiruvananthapuram on January 10, 2020, for the purpose of creating a cloned copy, the FSL experts noticed a change in hash value(indicative of unauthorised access). Though the change in hash value was reported to the trial court on January 29, 2020, it was not disclosed to the prosecution till February.
TB Mini, counsel for the survivor, submitted that the hash value of the memory card was changed. "Even though the MD file hash value of the memory card is changed, the hash value of the eight video recording files are found to be the same. On detailed examination, the memory card was accessed on January 9, 2018, and December 13, 2018. During that time the memory card was in the custody of the court. "Who accessed this memory card? This is the video recording that contained the visuals of rape that happened in 2017. If anybody accessed, copied, edited or tampered with it, what will be my future? That's the question and it's a serious issue," said counsel for the survivor. Then the court asked what's meant by access?. DGP replied that "somebody accessed it while it was in the custody of the court."
The court pointed out that the anxiety of the survivor regarding tampering of video clipping to the large extent cleared by the report of the director, FSL saying that video recording has not been tampered with.
The court further asked, "how can the expert say, who accessed it?" The hash value of the video recording was found to be the same. So there was no change. DGP said that "that cannot be taken note of it and it's only a statement." To which the court pointed out that the state government produced the report. How do you disown this?. "I can understand if your case is that the videos have been completely changed, then what you saying is right. If it is been tampered with, you are right," the court told the survivor's counsel.
The court also reminded the prosecution that "your hands are tied as far as the document in the custody of the court. The trial court controls the whole proceedings before it. The prosecution cannot dictate to the court."
"When you asked the court to forward something for examination, the court has the authority to decline it. Are you trying to delay the trial? isn't this an expert opinion saying that there is no change in the hash value? Isn't this sufficient evidence for the prosecution?" it asked and directed the prosecution to convince the court whether there was access to the memory card.