The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that the bail petition of one of the accused in the Gauri Lankesh murder case should not rely on a Karnataka High Court order from April, which quashed the charges under Karnataka Control of Organised Crimes Act against him, Live Law reported.
Lankesh, a journalist known for her strident views against Hindutva politics, was killed at her home in Bengaluru by gunmen on September 5, 2017. 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. At least 12 people were arrested in the case.
On April 22, the Karnataka High Court had dropped the organised crimes charges against Mohan Nayak, one of the accused. The court has quashed a 2018 Bengaluru police order and the supplementary chargesheet that was subsequently filed.
A special leave petition filed by Lankesh’s sister Kavita Lankesh in the Supreme Court challenged the April order and said that Nayak was relying on that judgement to seek bail. The hearing on his bail petition has been finished and the Karnataka High Court is expected to pronounce its verdict on Wednesday.
The Supreme Court bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Aniruddha Bose issued a notice to the Karnataka government on Tuesday and posted the matter for further hearing on July 15. The court also said that Nayak cannot be given bail till it disposes the petition, according to Bar and Bench.
Kavita Lankesh’s special leave petition in the Supreme Court said that the investigation 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”.
“The investigating agency has collected sufficient material to connect him with the case and establish his intimate nexus with the mastermind behind the entire event i.e. Accused No.1 Amol Kale and master arms trainer Accused No. 8 Rajesh D Bangera who are part and parcel of an ‘organized crime syndicate’ from its inception,” the plea added, according to Bar and Bench.
It also said that Nayak was part of Amol Kale’s syndicate, which is also allegedly involved in the murders of activists Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi and the conspiracy to murder Professor KS Bhagwan in 2018.
Narendra Dabholkar was shot dead in Pune on August 20, 2013. Govind Pansare was attacked by two unidentified gunmen on his way home from a morning walk in western Maharashtra’s Kolhapur on February 16, 2015. He died of bullet wounds on February 20. His wife Uma, who was shot at, survived the attack but is now paralysed.
MM Kalburgi, a Kendriya Sahitya Akademi awardee and anti-superstition activist, was shot dead at his home in Dharwad district in Karnataka on August 30, 2015.
Investigating agencies have said these three cases as well as the killing of journalist Lankesh were linked and right-wing extremists were behind them. In February 2019, the Supreme Court had noted that the murders of Kalburgi, Lankesh, Dabholkar and Pansare were part of a “very serious case”. Following that, the Supreme Court had directed that the murder case of Kalburgi be transferred to the same special investigation team that is looking into Lankesh’s killing. However, Kavitha Lankesh had challenged the suggestion to club the investigations.