Gauri Lankesh murder case | Organised crime charges valid, says Supreme Court

Gauri Lankesh.  

The Supreme Court on Thursday revived the organised crime charges against a man accused of harbouring the alleged killers of journalist Gauri Lankesh, whose murder four years ago struck a deadly blow to the freedom of speech and expression in the country.

Gauri was shot dead outside her home in Bengaluru in 2017.

A three-judge Bench, led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, upheld the appeal filed by Kavitha Lankesh, Gauri’s sister, that the prior approval given by the Bengaluru City Police Commissioner to invoke offences under the Karnataka Control of Organised Crimes Act against accused Mohan Nayak was legally valid.

Ms. Kavitha’s appeal before the apex court came after the Karnataka High Court dropped the organised crime charges against Nayak earlier this year, saying he was not engaged in “continuing unlawful activity” to be a part of a gang involved in organised crime.

The prosecution had argued that Nayak took a house on rent on the instructions of co-accused Amol Kale in the guise of running an acupressure clinic. The house was, in fact, meant to accommodate the killing crew. Gauri’s assassins had hid out in the same house after the murder, the prosecution version said.

Justice Khanwilkar said the Police Commissioner, while giving approval, needed only to focus on whether there was credible information before him about the involvement of an “organised syndicate” behind the crime. He just needed to be prima facie satisfied about it after looking at the material before him.

It was not necessary at that point of approval to look into the role of the individual offenders.

“Therefore, the specific role of the accused concerned [Nayak] is not required to be and is not so mentioned in the stated prior approval. That aspect would be unravelled during the investigation, after the registration of offence of organised crime,” the Supreme Court clarified the procedural law.

It noted that the High Court had examined the circumstances of the Police Commissioner’s approval by applying “erroneous scale”. The High Court had “glossed over the core and tangible facts”.

Besides, the apex court said the Police Commissioner’s approval seemed not to “suffer from any infirmity including qua Nayak having noted his intimate nexus with the brain behind the entire event, being none other than Amol Kale and master-arms trainer Rajesh D. Bangera, who are part and parcel of an organised crime syndicate and committed organised crimes as such”.

Ms. Kavitha, represented by advocate Aparna Bhat, had said a special investigation team investigation revealed that Nayak was indeed part of a syndicate that was behind several instances of organised crime. Her petition also referred to a spate of murders, including that of activists Narendra Dabolkar and Govind Pansare.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2021 10:12:00 PM |

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