The Supreme Court on Friday said that contents of a memory card or pen drive are electronic records and must be treated as "document" under the Indian Evidence Act.
In its verdict on a plea by Malayalam actor Dileep, the top court said that if the contents of the memory card/ pen drive are being relied upon by the prosecution in a criminal case, then the accused must be given a cloned copy thereof to enable him/her to present an effective defence during the trial.
Challenging the Kerala High Court order, Dileep had sought a copy of memory card of a cell phone pertaining to the 2017 case of abduction and assault on an actress.
A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari said that in cases involving issues such as of privacy of the complainant/witness or his/her identity, the Court may be justified in providing only inspection of the material to the accused and his/her lawyer or expert for presenting effective defence during the trial.
It said the court may issue suitable directions to balance the interests of both sides.
"We hold that the contents of the memory card/pen drive being electronic record must be regarded as a document. If the prosecution is relying on the same, ordinarily, the accused must be given a cloned copy thereof to enable him/her to present an effective defence during the trial," the bench said.
In February 2017, a Malayalam film actress was allegedly abducted and molested by eight accused. The entire act, had allegedly taken place in a moving vehicle, which was filmed to blackmail the actress.
P Gopalkrishnan alias Dileep was subsequently arrested and arrayed as an accused in connection with offences under provisions of IPC and IT Act.
The top court directed that the trial in case be concluded expeditiously, preferably within six months from the date of the judgment.
Dileep had challenged Kerala High Court verdict which dismissed his plea saying that memory card or pen drive cannot be held as a "document" under the Indian Evidence Act and is a material object which cannot be handed over to an accused.
The top court said that the basis of classifying article as a "document" depends upon the information which is inscribed and not on where it is inscribed.