Tuesday will mark the sixth anniversary of the assassination of editor-activist Gauri Lankesh outside her home in Bengaluru. The charge sheet was filed five years ago, but the trial in the case is nowhere near conclusion. Gauri’s family and activists are unhappy with the pace of the trial.
“It has been five years since the chargesheet was filed, but the trial is dragging on. We are dissatisfied with the pace of the trial. We want a speedy trial. We hope the government ensures the trial is concluded soon, and the culprits are brought to book,” said Kavita Lankesh, sister of Gauri.
The Special Investigation Team (SIT) filed a 9,000+ page chargesheet in November 2018. However, COVID-19 pandemic and a series of petitions by the defence delayed the start of the trial in the designated Karnataka Control of Organised Crimes Act, 2000 (KCOCA) court, which is also the Principal Sessions Court. The trial began as late as March 2022. Three judges have changed since then. At present, proceedings are held for three to five days in a month.
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The chargesheet lists a total of 530 witnesses of which the deposition of only 83 has been completed in the period since the trial began. If the trial is conducted at the same pace, the case may drag on for several years.
Trial on daily basis
Prof. V. S. Sridhar, a member of the Gauri Memorial Trust, said that, in the interest of justice for all, a speedy trial is the need of the hour, which could be ensured by setting up a special court.
Activist Shivasundar, a close associate of Gauri Lankesh who has been following the trial closely, said the only way the trial could be sped up is by setting up a special fast track court to conduct proceedings on a daily basis. “This will not only be fair to Gauri Lankesh, but to the accused as well,” he said.
The State Government, in concurrence with the High Court of Karnataka, can set up a special court and order fast tracking of the trial. The demand is likely to be put before Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who will be the chief guest at the Gauri Memorial Day event on September 5, in Bengaluru.