After a three-year trial, the First Fast Track Sessions Court on Thursday, citing lack of evidence, acquitted Bharati Urs, daughter of the former Chief Minister D. Devaraj Urs, and two others in the sensational Chitralekha Urs murder case. Chitralekha, distantly related to Bharati, was the daughter of the former Karnataka High Court Judge M.P. Chandrakantaraje Urs.

Judge Amaranarayana acquitted Bharati, T. Madhukar and L.N. Chandrakanth who were charged with abducting Chitralekha from the Palm Grove Nursery owned by Hari Khoday on January 19, 2004. Her decomposed body was found in the Shiradi Ghats on March 9, 2004.

The 900-page charge sheet said Bharati had hatched a criminal conspiracy to eliminate Chitralekha, who had mediated to get her a Rs. 70-lakh loan. It said Bharati allegedly arranged a meeting with Chitralekha at the Palm Grove Nursery where her aides, Madhukar and Chandrakanth, strangled her and dumped her body in the ghats.

The arrest of the two men led to the body. Chitralekha's jewellery was recovered from Chandrakanth's house. The police recovered the cheques and promissory notes signed by Bharati.

In his 70-page judgment, Mr. Amarnarayana said the prosecution failed to establish criminal conspiracy and there was no evidence to prove the meeting took place at Palm Grove. Chitralekha calling two friends from Palm Grove on her cellphone did not prove her presence at the place. There was no proof of the two ferrying the body from Palm Grove, the judge observed.

Terming the discovery of the body as suspicious, Mr. Amarnarayana said the autopsy report did not conclusively state Chitralekha died of strangulation. The judge also termed as suspicious the recovery of the ornaments from Chandrakanth's house.

Rejecting the prosecution's contention that Bharati's motive was the loan, the judge said she had not disputed her signatures on the cheques and promissory notes recovered from Chitralekha's office. “PW-2 (Chitralekha's sister Nayantara Urs) and PW-3 (her mother, Sharada) have urged for recovery of the amount before the proper forum,” the judge noted.

Four judges and three special public prosecutors dealt with the case during the trial. Judge A.R. Deshpande framed charges while judge Savitri Vinayaka started the trial on May 29, 2007. Mr. Amarnarayana was the fourth judge to hear the case.

Reacting to her acquittal, Bharati said she had got justice after six years. Special public prosecutor Ramakrishna said the State would appeal against the verdict.