Supreme Court of India reverses high court on Gauri Lankesh assassination

Kafka’s trials and ours – of journalists and their assassins

Gauri Lankesh Photo
Gauri Lankesh Photo

On 21 September 2021, the Supreme Court of India reversed the high court of Karnataka’s decision to quash the charges against the accused assassins of the outspoken journalist Gauri Lankesh who was fatally shot while entering her house in Bengaluru on the evening of 5 September 2017. The Supreme Court ruled that the high court of the state of Karnataka had erroneously diluted the charges to plain murder and dropped the charges against one of the gang, Mohan Nayak, while the investigation by the Special Investigation Team revealed that it was an organized crime. The Bengaluru police commissioner gave approval for invoking Section 3 of the Karnataka Control of Organised Crimes Act (KCOCA) on 14 August 2018.

Gauri Lankesh’s sister Kavitha Lankesh, had petitioned the Supreme Court, opposing the Karnataka high court’s decision in April 2020, to drop charges against accused Mohan Nayak under the Karnataka Control of Organised Crimes Act (KCOCA). The state high court had quashed these charges after dismissing a report by the Bengaluru police commissioner as well as the supplementary charge sheet filed in the case.

According to Lankesh, the special investigation team (SIT) probe cites Nayak as part of a ‘syndicate’ responsible for multiple organized crimes, including the murder of her sister – the journalist Gauri Lankesh – as well as the murder of activists such as Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare. The petition states that Nayak is also a close associate of Amol Kale and Rajesh Bangera, both of whom are the chief accused in the case. It states that Nayak was involved in ‘continuous unlawful activity’ as defined by the KCOCA, by providing shelter to the key accused individuals. It adds that the Karnataka high court ‘failed to appreciate the fact that the sanction order under Section 24(2) KCOCA was neither challenged nor assailed, and only order under Section 24(1)(a) had been challenged.’

The Supreme Court bench of justices AM Khalwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari, and CT Ravikumar said that the Karnataka high court completely misread the provisions of the KCOCA, committed a manifest error and exceeded its jurisdiction, and erred in quashing the charges against the accused. Justice Khalwilkar said the high court should have inquired whether the factual matrix of the crime, needed invoking KCOCA and not merely looked at the initial First Information Report (FIR) which registered the crime as a simple murder case.

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