Bengaluru, Dec 9 – The Karnataka High Court recently granted bail to Mohan Nayak, one of the accused in activist-journalist Gauri Lankesh murder case, due to lack of evidence. With this, Nayak became the first person to get bail in the case.
Gauri was shot dead in 2017.
Justice S Viashwajith Shetty gave Nayak bail on grounds that none of the 23 witnesses establish proof that he was part of the meeting where the accused persons allegedly conspired to murder Gauri.
Most of those witnesses have only spoken about Nayak taking a house on rent at Kumbalagodu in the outskirts of Bengaluru, he added.
According to prosecution, he had taken the house on rent to give shelter to actual assailants in the case.
The Court opined that provisions under section 19 of the Karnataka Control of Organized Crimes Act (COCA) may not be applicable to the confessions as the same was done prior to sanction being granted.
“The provision states that a confession made by a person before a police officer not below the rank of the Superintendent of Police and “recorded by such police officer either in writing or on any mechanical devices like cassettes, tapes or sound tracks from which sounds or images can be reproduced shall be admissible in the trial.”
“Even otherwise, the requirements of Section 19 has not be complied in the present case. The confessions have not been recorded by an officer of the rank of Superintendent of Police in the manner as provided under Section 19 of the COCA,” the Court added.
The Court further said even if charges under COCA are proved against the accused, the offences are not punishable exclusively with death or life imprisonment and the minimum punishment for the offences is imprisonment by five years.
The record revealed that Nayak has been in custody for more than five years. In this backdrop, the Court opined that even though the COCA has certain conditions for enlarging the accused on bail, the same cannot fetter its judicial power to grant the relief when there is undue delay.
The Court concluded that the trial may not be completed any time soon and the delay was not attributable to the accused.
“Under the circumstances, I am of the view that the prayer made by the petitioner in this petition needs to be answered affirmatively,” the bench said, while granting Nayak bail.
The High Court had earlier twice denied regular bail to the accused.
Seeking bail on the ground of delay in conclusion of trial, the accused said there are a total of 527 chargesheet witnesses in the case and only 90 have been examined till date.
Advocate Amar Correa represented the accused. Special Public Prosecutor Ashok A Naik represented the prosecution.