The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its judgement in a petition filed against a Karnataka High Court order that dropped the charges of organised crime against an accused in the murder case of journalist Gauri Lankesh, Bar and Bench reported.
However, the Supreme Court said that the High Court had dealt the matter of quashing the charges against the accused “very lightly”, Live Law reported. A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari noted that the High Court’s decision was “incorrect” and “in excess of the jurisdiction”.
Lankesh, a journalist known for her strident views against Hindutva politics, was shot dead at her home in Bengaluru on September 5, 2017. At least 12 people have been arrested in the case.
Her murder sparked protests around the country, and was seen by many as another in a spate of attacks that have targeted activists and writers critical of the right wing.
In April, the Karnataka High Court had dropped the organised crimes charges against accused Mohan Nayak.
The High Court had quashed the charges under the Karnataka Control of Organised Crime Act on the grounds that no prior chargesheet had been filed under the law to prove that Nayak was part of the crime syndicate allegedly involved in the murder.
Lankesh’s sister Kavitha Lankesh had moved the Supreme Court challenging the High Court’s decision.
In her petition, Kavitha Lankesh submitted that investigation in the case has shown Nayak was actively involved in “providing shelter to the killers prior to and after committing the offence and has participated in a series of conspiracies, abetting, planning, providing logistics”.
On Tuesday, Senior Advocate Husefa Ahmadi, appearing for Kavitha Lankesh argued against the Karnataka High Court’s rationale behind dropping charges against Nayak.
“The chargesheet categorically makes out a case of a syndicate involved in the commission of the crime,” Ahmadi submitted, according to The Hindu. “Once the argument of a syndicate is established, the argument whether a particular person [Nayak] was not part of earlier crimes of the syndicate is irrelevant.”
Senior Advocate Basava Prabhu S Patil, appearing for Nayak, argued that there was a distinction between “abettor” or “harbourer” and “a member of a crime syndicate” under the Karnataka Control of Organised Crime Act.
“If a person is not a member of the syndicate, how can he be booked under organised crime?” he asked.
However, Khanwilkar did not agree with Patil’s submission.
“Suppose there is a gang of 20 persons...Four persons have planned and others attacked on the forefront,” the judge said, according to Bar and Bench. “Now just because the planners did not come ahead will they not be charged under the law as conspirators, abettors. They are still members.”
The court observed that the Karnataka High Court quashed the chargesheet without analysing it properly. “This is incorrect and this is in excess of the jurisdiction [of High Court],” Khanwilkar noted.