The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday constituted a Special Investigation Team to probe RTI activist Lingaraju’s murder and also recommended that the State government formulate rules for the protection of whistleblowers on the lines of measures initiated by the Haryana government.
The SIT will be headed by Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Pranab Mohanty and will comprise Superintendent of Police (CID) Abdul Ahad. The SIT has been asked to complete the probe by February 10, 2013.
A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Vikramajit Sen and Justice B.V. Nagarathna passed the order during the hearing of a public interest litigation petition initiated suo motu by the court based on newspaper reports on Lingaraju’s murder.
Referring to the Haryana government’s September 6, 2011 notification, ‘Policy for providing security to whistleblower/RTI activists/complaints or witnesses in serious cases’, the Bench asked the Karnataka government too come out with similar measures as expeditiously as possible.
Till now the case was being investigated by the Chamarajpet police, but the court had expressed displeasure over the manner of investigation after amicus curiae Hashmath Pasha pointed out that despite complaints about threats to Lingaraju’s life since 2010, the government and the jurisdictional police had not provided him with protection.
Government counsel R. Devdas informed the Bench that Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike councillor Gowramma — whose husband, C. Govindaraju, has already been arrested in connection with the murder — was arrested from Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday morning.
During an earlier hearing, the Bench asked why she was not arraigned as an accused after Mr. Pasha pointed out that Govindaraju appeared to have paid money to the hired killers by pledging Gowramma’s gold jewellery.
It was on Lingaraju’s complaint that the Lokayukta police raided Gowramma’s residences on November 8 for possession of assets disproportionate to her known sources of income. Lingaraju was murdered in front his wife on November 20.
The court also accepted the government’s proposal to appoint the former Director of Prosecution Sadashivamurthy as Special Public Prosecutor in this case.
The Bench appreciated the services of Mr. Pasha, who had pointed out lacunae in the probe, ignorance of Lingaraju’s complaints of threat to his life, and need for rules to protect whistleblowers, and granted him Rs. 40,000 as honorarium.
Mr. Pasha said that he would give the money to Lingaraju’s wife.