Petition was against dropping of organised crime charges against man accused of harbouring her alleged killers
The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved for judgment a petition filed by the sister of slain journalist Gauri Lankesh against the dropping of organised crime charges against a man accused of harbouring her alleged killers.
Kavitha Lankesh had moved the court challenging a Karnataka High Court decision to drop charges under the Karnataka Control of Organised Crime Act (KCOCA) of 2000 against accused Mohan Nayak, who is accused of harbouring Gauri’s killers. He was also accused of being a critical member of an “organised crime syndicate”.
The question before the court is whether a person, against whom there is no evidence of being part of a syndicate in the past, can be identified as a member of that crime gang and booked under the KCOCA.
HC quashes charges
The High Court had quashed KCOCA charges against Nayak, an alternative medical practitioner, on the ground that he had no prior charge sheets under the KCOCA to prove that he was part of the “continuing unlawful activities” of the crime syndicate allegedly behind Gauri’s murder.
Appearing before a Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, senior advocate Husefa Ahmadi, for Ms. Kavitha, submitted there was no dispute about the involvement of a crime syndicate in the murder of Gauri Lankesh.
Four years on, charges yet to be framed in Gauri Lankesh case
“The charge sheet categorically makes out a case of a syndicate involved in the commission of the crime…. Once the argument of a syndicate is established, the argument whether a particular person [Nayak] was not part of earlier crimes of the syndicate is irrelevant,” Mr. Ahmadi submitted.
Appearing for the accused, senior advocate Basava Prabhu S. Patil, drew a distinction between “abettor” or “harbourer” and “a member of a crime syndicate” under the KCOCA. Mr. Patil said an abettor cannot be necessarily equated to a syndicate member. “If a person is not a member of the syndicate, how can he be booked under organised crime,” he asked.
Mr. Ahmadi responded, “You may not be a member of organised crime, but if you have harboured a member of organised crime, you are deemed to come under organised crime law”.
Mr. Patil asked whether it was right to brand a person as a member of organised crime at the very stage of approval of registration of FIR against him, especially when there was no proof that he had earlier participated in unlawful activities of the syndicate.
The apex court said in June that the accused should not be granted bail until Ms. Kavitha’s plea was decided.
Ms. Kavitha, represented by advocate Aparna Bhat, said an SIT investigation had revealed that the accused was 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.
Gauri was shot dead outside her home in Bengaluru in 2017.
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