Gauri Lankesh case: SC to decide on keeping KCOCA charges against accused CJP backs Kavitha Lankesh in moving SC against HC’s order dropping organised crime charges

16, Aug 2021 | CJP Team

The Supreme Court Bench of Justices A.M Khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna has posted on September 8 the matter of Kavitha Lankesh, the sister of slain journalist Gauri Lankesh, challenging an order by the Karnataka High Court dropping charges under Karnataka Control of Organised Crime Act (KCOCA) against Mohan Nayak, one of the accused in the case.

Kavitha Lankesh has filed a Special Leave Petition before the apex court with CJP’s assistance. Accused Mohan Nayak is a close associate of Amol Kale and Rajesh Bangera, two men who are key accused in planning and committing the assassination of the slain journalist, Gauri Lankesh.

Nayak had also approached the Karnataka High Court for bail on grounds of this ruling dropping the KCOCA charges against him. He had contended that on April 2, 2021, the court had quashed the FIR in relation to offence under KCOCA and therefore he could not be charged for the offence under KCOCA. For this reason, he argued that the chargesheet against him should have been filed before expiry of 90 days from the date of his arrest and remand to judicial custody. Admittedly there was no chargesheet and hence he contended that he should be entitled to statutory bail under Section 167(2) of Cr.PC.

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But on July 13, the High Court’s Single-judge Bench of Justice Sreenivas Harish Kumar ruled that Nayak cannot seek bail on the grounds that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) filed a chargesheet against him, only on November 23, 2018, more than 90 days following his arrest on July 19, 2018, since the bail application was moved only after the chargesheet was filed.

The HC order dated July 13 may be read here:

Besides Kavitha Lankesh, the State of Karnataka has also moved the Supreme Court against the April order of the High Court dropping KCOCA charges of organised crime against Mohan Nayak. In their special leave petition before the top court, they have contended that the High Court erred and did not consider the several pieces of evidence and material records that clearly establish that Nayak is a member of an organised crime syndicate involved in several criminal acts from several years.

The State has argued that the High Court did not consider that there is prima facie material against Mohan and that he has been actively involved in providing shelter to the killers of Gauri Lankesh, prior to and after committing the offence, “participating in a series of conspiracies, abetting, planning, providing logistics and thus involved in continuous unlawful activity.” They have further stated that the investigating agency has collected sufficient material to connect Nayak with the case and his intimate nexus with the brain behind the entire assassination is none other than the Amol Kale (accused number 1) and master arms trainer Rajesh D. Bangera (accused number 8) who are part and parcel of an “organised crime syndicate” from its inception.

The State has also referred to several judgments which have clearly held that if a person is involved individually or jointly, either as a member of an organized crime syndicate or on its behalf, such a crime shall fall within the definition of “organised crime” under KCOCA.

In the present case, approval to take cognisance of an offence under KCOCA was granted under section 24 (1) (a) of the Act against the 12 accused persons and the charge sheet was filed against the 18 accused persons after due sanction contemplated under section 24(2) of KCOCA. The State has argued that the High Court did not take into account that even if Nayak’s name was not included in the approval granted under section 24(1)(a) (No information about the commission of an offence of organized crime shall be recorded by a police officer without the prior approval of the police officer not below the rank of the Deputy Inspector General of Police) of KCOCA, his name was subsequently included in the sanction granted u/s 24(2) of KCOC Act, which is valid. Section 24(2) states that no Special Court will take cognisance of any offence without the previous sanction of the police officer not below the rank of an Additional Director General of Police.

CJP’s role

Lankesh’s SLP before the SC, filed through CJP’s assistance, details the nature and extent of Mohan’s involvement saying that investigations had found that he had been “actively involved in providing shelter to the killers prior to and after committing the offence and has participated in a series of conspiracies, abetting, planning, providing logistics.”

The SLP further reiterated what the investigation agency has revealed, that they have collected sufficient evidence “to connect him with the case and establish his intimate nexus with the mastermind behind the entire event i.e., Accused No.1 Amol Kale and master arms trainer Accused No. 8 Rajesh D. Bangera who are part and parcel of an “organised crime syndicate” from its inception.” Read all about it here.

In the previous hearing, on June 29, 2021, a three-judge bench of Justices Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Anirudha Bose of the Supreme Court of India had issued a notice in the SLP. Senior counsel Huzefa Ahmadi was assisted by Ms Aparna Bhat and Ms Maria Karishma.

The matter will now be heard on September 8, 2021 for final disposal.


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