A trial in the September 5, 2017, murder case of journalist Gauri Lankesh, which began on July 4 at the court of Principal District and Sessions Judge Justice Chandrashekhar Mrutyunjaya Joshi in Bengaluru, is likely to witness a slowdown over the coming days on account of his elevation to the Karnataka High Court on Tuesday.
Justice Joshi, the trial court judge in the Gauri Lankesh case, was among the five judges sworn-in as the additional judge of the Karnataka High Court by Governor Thawarchand Gehlot in a ceremony held at the Raj Bhavan.
The other additional judges are Anil Katti, Gurusiddaiah Basavaraj, Umesh Manjunath Bhat Adiga, and Talkad Girigowda Shivashankar Gowda.
Justice Joshi as the trial court judge in the Gauri Lankesh case at the principal sessions court had set an agenda for a speedy trial of the murder case with hearing scheduled for the second week of every month.
Since the trial began on July 4, he had examined 19 of the over 200 witnesses, including the complainant Kavitha Lankesh – the younger sister of the murdered journalist, in the case.
In the last hearing at the principal sessions court, the trial of the case had been posted to September 5, 2022, – the fifth anniversary of the death of the journalist. The trial is likely to slow down until the appointment of a new judge and resumption of the trial.
An investigation by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Karnataka Police has named 17 persons from right-wing Hindutva fringe outfits for the conspiracy and shooting down of 55-year-old Gauri Lankesh, the editor of the Kannada publication Lankesh Patrike, at the doorstep of her home on the night of September 5, 2017, when she returned from work.
In May this year, the court of the principal city civil and sessions judge in Bengaluru had drawn up a plan to conduct the trial of the murder from July 4 – with hearings held every second week of a month.
The judge overruled demands by the defence advocates to conduct the trial with the physical presence of all the accused and ordered the presence of the accused by video conferencing to allow a speedy trial.
The decks were cleared for the conduct of the trial in the murder of the journalist in October last year following the framing of charges of murder, organized crime and gun crimes against 17 members of an extremist right-wing syndicate by the principal sessions court, which is also a special court for organized crimes in Bengaluru.
The framing of charges was earlier delayed for over two years on account of the Covid situation and due to multiple applications filed by the accused themselves.
The charges have been framed under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), under Section 120 B for criminal conspiracy as well as Sections of the IPC for crimes carried out with criminal knowledge and intention.
The charges have also been framed under the Karnataka Organized Crime Act, 2000, and the Arms Act, 1959, on account of trained gunmen carrying out the murder.
The SIT filed a 9,235-page additional chargesheet apart from a preliminary chargesheet in the killing of Gauri Lankesh at her home in Bengaluru.