Gauri Lankesh murder case: Karnataka High Court grants bail to Mohan Nayak
The High Court of Karnataka has granted bail to Mohan Nayak N, who is arraigned as Accused Number 11 in the murder of editor-activist Gauri Lankesh, on the grounds that the trial has been delayed for no fault of his and that it might not be completed any time soon.
There are 527 chargesheet witnesses in the case and only 90 of them have been examined in the past two years, even though the High Court in February 2019 directed the trial court to expedite the trial while dismissing Nayak’s earlier bail plea, the High Court said, while noticing that he has been in judicial custody since July 18, 2018.
Justice S. Vishwajith Shetty passed the order on December 7 while allowing a petition filed by Nayak, 51, who had moved the High Court, after the trial court this July 6 refused to release him on bail on the grounds of inordinate delay in the trial.
Nayak, a native of Sampaje in Sullia taluk of Dakshina Kannada district, was charged under the provisions of the Karnataka Control of Organised Crimes Act (KCOCA), 2000.
Analysis of charges
While analysing the charges for the limited purpose of examining the grant of bail, the High Court noted that though he is alleged to be a member of a syndicate committing organised crime under KOCCA, the material on record would show that he is not arraigned as co-accused in any of the other cases registered against the other accused persons for committing organised crime.
Meanwhile, the High Court pointed out that the Supreme Court, in its judgment on the invocation of KCOCA against him, had observed that the material collected against Nayak was not sufficient to invoke Section 3(1) of the KCOCA.
Referring to statements of witnesses in the chargesheet, the court said that none have stated he was part of a meeting of the other accused persons, wherein they had conspired to murder Gauri.
Noticing that a confession statement of the accused was recorded prior to invoking KCOCA, the High Court said that Section 19 of the KCOCA may not be applicable while pointing out that confessions were not recorded by an officer of the rank of Superintendent of Police in a manner provided in Section 19.
Not punishable with death
Even if the charges for offences under Sections 3(2), 3(3) and 3(4) of the Act are proved, the High Court said they are not punishable with death or life imprisonment, and the minimum punishment is five years.
The High Court directed Nayak to execute a personal bond for ₹1 lakh with two sureties for the like sum and appear on all the dates of hearing before the trial court unless exempted.