26, Feb 2019 | Teesta Setalvad
The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, February 26, directed that the ongoing investigation into the killing of noted linguist and historian, MM Kalburgi be handed over to the Special Investigation Team (SIT), Karnataka that is currently investigating the Gauri Lankesh murder. Further, the SC bench headed by Rohinton Nariman also directed that the Dharwad bench of the Karnataka High Court will monitor the ongoing investigation. Professor MM Kalburgi had been killed at his residence on August 30, 2015 while Ms Gauri Lankesh had been shot dead outside her home on September 5, 2017. The SIT headed by senior police officer BK Singh of Karnataka has made considerable headway in the Gauri Lankesh murder investigation so far.
About a year ago, Uma Kalburgi wife of the slain academic had filed a petition concerned with the slow pace of investigation in the killing of her husband. During a hearing of the matter in December 2018, the SC had raised the issue of whether the matter should be handed over to the CBI and more, whether all four investigations should be clubbed and looked into by one agency. Before Kalburgi, Govind Pansare the senior CPI leader and writer had been shot dead on his morning walk on February 20, 2015. On August 20, 2013, rationalist and founder of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Andolan Nirmoolan Samiti, Narendra Dabholkar had been similarly killed. The four murders had generated widespread condemnation.
CJP mourns the far too many rationalists who have lost their lives for speaking truth to power, and stands with the activists who continue to resist today. One of our four pillars is dedicated to Reform in the Criminal Justice System. So all such path-breaking investigations that expand the scope of collection of evidence, are of particular import for the priorities of human rights jurisprudence carved out by CJP. Please support our human rights-related coverage, and other efforts by donating here.
Concerned that any adverse verdict may affect the investigation into her sister’s murder, filmmaker , Kavitha Lankesh had intervened in the matter. The intervention application number 811/2019 was filed in Writ Petition (Criminal) Nos 212/2017, filed by the Uma Kalburgi, wife of Kannada academic MM Kalburgi who was similarly gunned down in August 2015, two years before Ms Gauri Lankesh. The petition of the Kalburgi’s has prayed for a Court monitored investigation and not for a clubbing of investigations.
Uma Kalburgi, in her petition had prayed for
- a) Issue a Writ of Mandamus or any other Writ, Order or Direction in the nature of Mandamus appointing Independent person retired Judge of Supreme Court or High Court and of directing Respondent No. 2 Government of Karnataka to appoint dedicated Special Investigation Team led by the Additional Director of General of Police, Karnataka, and comprising of expert officers of impeccable credentials to conduct an investigation into the conspiracy and gruesome murder of Professor M. M. Kalburgi on 30/08/2015 and to take all necessary consequential steps/actions pertaining thereto and direction to provide such Team necessary facilities as well as support. The directions also should include reporting to Hon’ble Supreme Court and no change in the team without permission of the Hon’ble Court;
- b) Direct the State of Maharashtra and the State of Goa to nominate particular police officer to provide all support and information to Special Investigating Team constituted under prayer-clause (a) immediately and share details of investigation in murder of Dr. Dabholkar and Comrade Pansare;
- c) Seek immediate report from all the Respondent States involved and especially from the National Investigation Agency seeking efforts made by them to apprehend the accused named in the said crime and accused involved in Professor Kalburgi murder case along with reports from State of Maharashtra and C.B.I.;
- d) Formulate appropriate policy for investigation of inter-state crimes and the support of agency like the N.I.A. and the C.B.I. to various State agencies whenever and wherever it is required. The said policy should mandate appointment of Nodal officer holding rank of Inspector General of Police in every State. The policy should also provide for timeframe for sharing information and coram of meetings;
- e) Monitor the investigation to be carried out by the Special Investigation Team sought to be constituted through the present Petition, till the time such investigation is reached to its logical conclusion;
- f) During the pendency of the hearing of the present petition, this Hon’ble Court be pleased to direct the Respondent to submit the periodic status report as to the progress made in the investigation in the case of murder of Professor M. M. Kalburgi”
Ms Lankesh, in her intervention application had made a strong case for arguing that, “the Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by Inspector General of Police (Karnataka) has been conducting the Investigation with great speed and urgency and moreover the entire Investigation has been committed to a Court though not yet completed.The SIT Investigation is being carried out with great pace and from January 2018 till date, 16 accused persons have been arrested and incriminating evidences have been unearthed by the SIT. Following this, even the preliminary and subsequent Charge Sheets have been filed.” Moreover she has stated that “ if at this advanced stage of the Investigation into the matter of the cold blooded murder of the sister of the Applicant, any change is made or the Investigation is shifted to any other agency, the entire process would be de-railed.”
Background of the Gauri Lankesh murder
The incident of the cold blood killing of the sister of the Applicant, Ms. Gauri Lankesh took place on September 5, 2017, between 8:00 pm and 8:30 pm, at her residence No. 473/A, 14th Cross, Ideal Homes Extension, Rajarajeshwari Nagar, when unidentified assailants committed the murder of senior journalist and activist, Gauri Lankesh by shooting seven shots in cold blood. The said incident came under the jurisdiction of Rajarajeshwari Nagar police station of Bangalore City and on the same day an FIR was registered under Sections 302, 120(B), 114, 118, 109, 201, 203, 204, 35 of I.P.C. and Sections 25(1), 25(1B), 27(1) of the Indian Arms Act, 1959 and Sessions 3(1)(i), 3(2), 3(3) and 3(4) of the COCA Act, 2000 ( Order No.C.R.M./01/158/BC/2017-18 dated 06-09-2017 of the D.G. and I.G.P.) as Crime No. 221/2017. Gauri Lankesh’s sister, Kavitha Lankesh is the first informant in the case.
The Karnataka State Government announced the formation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) which was constituted the day after the ghastly incident itself. Since then the Investigation has been carried on by the said SIT. Kavitha Lankesh also states that “through the numbing shock of her sister’s brute assassination, she and her family were also compelled in the interests of justice and truth-telling to participate in the process to identify the killers of this dastardly act. Through this process, despite the national and international attention on the case, it is the applicant’s humble and most considered experience that the SIT constituted by the Karnataka government and police, went about its job methodically to the best extent possible gathering evidence crucial to the investigation.” Detailed reports of the investigation have shown that under the aegis of the SIT that links and connections to the other cases and murders committed before the killing of the applicant’s sister, Gauri Lankesh have been and are being made. Accused hitherto linked and connected to other crimes even outside the killings of the four rationalists along with the applicant’s sister have been unearthed through the investigations of the SIT, Karnataka.
“The Investigation has also apparently unearthed details of arms trainings and trainings in killings and violent acts that point to a broader based organizational set up that goes beyond the killing of the Applicant’s sister, Ms Gauri Lankesh. That details of these criminal acts and trainings appear to be taking place in both Karnataka and Maharashtra and Goa at the very least”. She had further stated that, if at all therefore any investigations have to be clubbed or transferred it ought to be to this body constituted of the senior echelons of the Karnataka police.”
Details of Ms Kavitha Lankesh’s intervention application can be read here.
Ms Uma Kalburgi’s petition may be read here:
Feature image credit: Fotokannan via Wikimedia Commons.