Gauri Lankesh murder: Police sought appeal, state dragged feet, reveals RTI

After Kavitha Lankesh's plea on June 10, filed in her capacity as the original complainant, the Karnataka government had on July 26 also appealed against the High Court order.

Gauri Lankesh. (File)

RTI replies show that the Karnataka government failed to file a special leave petition against the High Court order of April 22 dropping charges under the KCOCA against Mohan Nayak, an accused in the Gauri Lankesh killing, within the stipulated 90-day time period. It was an application filed by her sister Kavitha Lankesh that resulted in the Supreme Court taking up the matter, which finally resulted in it quashing the High Court order on Thursday.

After Kavitha Lankesh’s plea on June 10, filed in her capacity as the original complainant in the case, the Karnataka government had on July 26 also appealed against the High Court order. The 90-day limitation period for filing SLPs in criminal matters in the Supreme Court against a high court order ended in this case on July 22.

Replies to RTI pleas filed by The Indian Express with the Karnataka and Bengaluru police and the state home department show that the state government dragged its feet despite prosecutors and the Bengaluru police pressing for an SLP.

The then minister for home and law in the Karnataka government was Basavaraj Bommai, who became Chief Minister on July 28. Just before the state filed the SLP in the Supreme Court, Bommai had told The Indian Express the matter was still under deliberation. “These are all decisions that have to be considered and taken,” he had said.

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In the April 22 order, the High Court had quashed the sanction given by the Bengaluru police chief in August 2018 to invoke the KCOCA against Nayak and others. The Supreme Court held that the High Court Sent had erred in quashing the sanction and “clearly exceeded its jurisdiction in quashing the chargesheet… at this stage”.

Nayak is accused of helping organise Lankesh’s killing, along with others belonging to various extremist Hindu outfits.

An RTI reply from the Bengaluru police shows that the Special Investigation Team in the case received a report on April 26, 2021, from the special public prosecutor saying the April 22 High Court order was fit for being appealed against in the Supreme Court.

On May 3, SIT officials wrote to the office of the state Director General of Police, attaching the submission of the special public prosecutor. The letter stated that the case is sensitive and serious, and that the High Court order must be challenged.

An August 18 RTI reply by the state home department shows that a special committee headed by Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Rajneesh Goel — which decides on filing cases in the Supreme Court — first held a meeting on June 8. “It was observed in the meeting (of June 8) that the case was serious and sensitive… that it would be appropriate to obtain the opinion of the advocate general.”

On July 9, the issue was taken up again by the committee and it was reported that the chairman, the Karnataka Home Secretary, had been told by the state advocate general that the panel could decide on the matter. Consequently, the committee decided that an appeal be filed in the Supreme Court.

The Karnataka government finally filed an SLP in the Supreme Court on July 26.

By then, Kavitha Lankesh had already approached the Supreme Court. She told The Indian Express that she filed the plea as she felt she “could not wait for the government to decide”.

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