Gauri Lankesh case: Government delay in challenging HC order irks activists

K.V. Aditya Bharadwaj Bengaluru 07 July 2021 00:27 IST
Updated: 07 July 2021 00:27 IST

Police say how organised crime Act is interpreted is crucial to the case

The State government’s delay in challenging the Karnataka High Court order of April 2021 related to the Gauri Lankesh murder case, forcing the victim’s family to approach the apex court and secure a stay order, has caused consternation among those fighting for speedy justice in the case.

The High Court’s interpretation of the provisions of the Karnataka Control of Organised Crime Act (KCOCA), 2000, while quashing charges under the law against one of the accused in the murder of the journalist-activist, also has the Karnataka State Police worried.


Justice K.S. Mudagal of the High Court quashed charges under the KCOCA, 2000, against one of the accused, Mohan Nayak, on the grounds that the accused did not have more than one prior chargesheet to charge him under the law. The government had argued that this need not be the benchmark in this case, as the other accused had prior chargesheets and Mr. Nayak was a member of the organised crime syndicate.

Of the 17 accused chargesheeted and arrested in the case, only six have more than one chargesheet previously. Following the order, the other accused in the case have filed similar petitions. If charges under this law are quashed, it will help them get bail, the police fear. Given how other accused in past cases related to the Sanatan Sanstha have been absconding and been elusive for over a decade now, agencies fear bail to any of the accused is a security risk.

The issue

However, contrary to expectations, the State government did not challenge the order in the apex court even after two months and the bail petition of Mohan Nayak was set to come up. Kavitha Lankesh, sister of Gauri Lankesh, then approached the Supreme Court, which stayed the High Court order and served notice to the State government. The case will come up for hearing on July 15. Ms. Kavitha Lankesh refused to comment on the issue.

Activists fighting for speedy justice want the State government to ensure prompt legal redressal. “We fear the good work in detection of the case is being undone by the incumbent government. We appeal that the government take stringent legal measures to punish the culprits. This cannot be seen only as an isolated act of murder, but as a larger plot to silence dissent, especially given it has now come to light that the same group was behind the murders of four writers and activists,” said V.S. Sridhar, spokesperson of Gauri Memorial Trust.

Noted writer and linguist G.N. Devy of Dakshinayana, a writers’ forum formed after the murder of M.M. Kalburgi, said both the Union and State governments are duty-bound to assure the rule of law is upheld. “Any slacking in the legal fight will only mean shielding the accused in a heinous crime.”

Meanwhile, the State police are also concerned with the interpretation of the KCOCA provisions by the High Court. “This not only affects the Gauri Lankesh case, but several other KCOCA cases. Practically, invoking the KCOCA against only those against whom there are two prior chargesheets and not against members of such a syndicate severely limits the law and its teeth to control organised crime,” a senior police officer said.

“There are multiple apex court orders that have favoured our interpretation of the law. But the High Court has favoured another interpretation. So the apex court is the right forum to settle the issue,” said Praveen Sood, DG & IGP, Karnataka State Police.