BY- JAGRATI GUPTA
Introduction: On Tuesday, the Supreme Court Bench constituting of Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, and Justice CT Ravikumar reserved its judgment (reserving the judgments means that the presentation of arguments from both the sides has been done and the written submissions have been successfully submitted, now the said matter will be deliberated upon by the judges until the deliverance of the judgment) in the case titled Kavitha Lankesh v. State of Karnataka in relation with Gauri Lankesh murder case. Kavitha Lankesh, sister of Gauri Lankesh had filed a petition contesting the judgment delivered by the Karnataka High Court by which the charges were framed under the Karnataka Control of Organised Crimes Act (KCOCA) against the accused Mohan Nayak were rescinded. The reservation of judgment was done after hearing the detailed submissions made by Senior Advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, representing Kavita Lankesh and Advocate Basava Prabhu S Patil counsel for Mohan Nayak.
Background of the case: Gauri Lankesh was an activist and journalist who worked as an editor in Lankesh Patrike, a Kannada weekly started by her father P. Lankesh, and ran her own weekly called Gauri Lankesh Patrike. She was murdered on September 5, 2017, in close proximity to her residence in South Bengaluru by three unidentified men. Post her death, there was a nationwide incense demanding stringent punishment of the murderers. The Karnataka government at that time formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the murder. The case has been undertrial for around 4 years with no convictions so far. On April 22, 2021, the Karnataka High Court dismissed the charges filed under the Karnataka Control of Organised Crimes Act (KCOCA) against the accused Mohan Nayak who allegedly provided harbourage to the main accused, including the shooter, and that he was involved in “continuous unlawful activity” which comes within the ambit of KCOCA. Since the state failed to file an appeal against the judgment of Karnataka HC, Senior Advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, counsel for Kavita Lankesh filed a private petition regarding the same in the Supreme Court. The petition states that dismissal of charges against the accused is a grave mistake as a thorough examination of the objective of Section 24 KCOCA was not done by the court and the court failed to acknowledge that the said sanction order under Section 24(2) KCOCA was not challenged and that the order given under Section 24(1)(a) was contested. Mr. Ahmadi contended that the accused must be considered as a member of the syndicate committing an organized crime. The counsel Advocate Basava Prabhu S Patil appearing for accused Mohan Nayak contended that if the arguments of the prosecution are to be accepted then anyone can be said to be a member of the syndicate.
Observation of the court: The court indicated that it is considering dismissing the last part of the High Court’s impugned order by which the supplementary charge sheet framed under KCOCA was repealed. The court stated that the finding of the contested judgment irrespective of the quashing of the last part might be upheld and that the investigative agencies cannot be restrained to find whether the accused was a member of the syndicate or not. Justice Khanwilkar stated, “It’s a very serious order to be passed, quashing charge sheet without analyzing the charge sheet. Whether his role is mentioned in the charge sheet or not, HC has not analyzed it! Now the court would be contemplating the matter until the delivery of the judgment.