The Karnataka High Court on Thursday granted bail to one of the men accused of plotting the assassination of journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh. This is the first instance of a court granting bail to a person accused in the case.

Lankesh, who was the editor of a periodical named Gauri Lankesh Patrike and a prominent critic of Hindutva groups, was shot dead outside her home in Bengaluru’s Rajarajeshwari Nagar by a group of men on the night of September 5, 2017, as she was returning home from work.

A bench headed by Justice Vishwajith Shetty granted bail to Mohan Nayak, an alleged co-conspirator in Lankesh’s murder, who had been incarcerated in July 2018. Nayak, who had been denied bail by the court on two previous occasions, has been released against a bond of Rs 1 lakh.

Shetty cited the “inordinate delay” in the trial’s completion and said that the charges against Nayak did not amount to a life or death sentence under the Karnataka Control of Organized Crime Act, 2000, which has been invoked against him.

The judge also remarked that the trial “may not be completed any time soon” and that under these circumstances Nayak’s request for bail “needs to be answered affirmatively”. The court is yet to examine 22 of out 23 witnessed named in the chargesheet against Nayak.

The allegation against Nayak is that he had “conspired with the other accused persons to commit the murder of deceased Gauri Lankesh and in furtherance of such conspiracy, he had taken a house for rent at Ramanagara in an isolated place and had given shelter in the said house to accused number 2 and 3 who are the actual assailants”, the court’s order read.

Shetty also remarked that “the confession statement of the accused persons have been recorded in violation of the requirement of Karnataka Control of Organized Crime Act” and would therefore not be admissible in court.

The Act requires the confessions to be recorded by an officer of the rank of superintendent of police, which was not the case with Nayak and alleged co-conspirators.