CASE TITLE: Kavita Lankesh v. State of Karnataka & Ors

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld an appeal from the Karnataka High Court, which had invalidated charges against one of the suspects in the Gauri Lankesh assassination case, Mohan Nayak, under the Karnataka Control of Organised Crimes Act (KCOCA).

On an appeal filed by Lankesh’s sister, Kavita Lankesh, challenging the High Court verdict, a bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari, and CT Ravikumar restored the charges.

The need for a specified person being involved in more than two charge sheets recorded against him in the past is not significant if the offender’s participation is just that of a facilitator or abettor as referred to in Section 3(2), 3(3), 3(4), or 3(5), according to the Supreme Court.

Regardless, the top court states that an accused can be prosecuted under the 2000 Act if the evidence gathered by the Investigating Agency “reveals how he had nexus with a suspect who is a part of an organized crime syndicate or that such nexus is related to an offence in the nature of organised crime.”

“As a result, he does not need to have had a direct role in the commission of an organized crime as such,” the ruling states.

The ruling that is being challenged in the Supreme Court was issued on April 22, 2021, when the Karnataka High Court rejected the Bengaluru Commissioner of Police’s order from 2018 and the additional charge sheet that was filed afterward. Nayak’s charges under Sections 3(1)(i), 3(2), 3(3), and 3(4) of the KCOCA were thus dismissed.

“Authority has to focus principally on the factum whether the information/material indicates the conduct of a crime which is an organized crime perpetrated by the organized crime syndicate,” the Supreme Court held at the stage of providing prior authorization under Section 24(1)(a) of the KCOCA Act.

“Prior approval is a crime in and of itself, not the offender as such. The offense under the 2000 Act can be invoked as long as the incidents referred to in earlier crimes were perpetrated by a group of people and one common individual was involved in all of them “reads the ruling.

According to the Supreme Court appeal, Nayak was actively involved in providing refuge to Lankesh’s killers both before and after the crime was committed.

The High Court erred by failing to examine the scheme of Section 24 of the KCOCA, which says that no Special Court may take cognizance of any offense under the Act without the prior consent of a police officer not lower than the rank of Additional Director General of Police. It was pointed out that the same was followed in this case.

During the hearings, the Supreme Court stated that while an accused person could be granted benefits prior to the approval stage, quashing the charge sheet against him was “incorrect.”

“You can claim that there isn’t enough evidence. The charge sheet has been quashed by the High Court. This is erroneous, and it goes outside the scope of the law. It can’t be suffocated in this manner. Because the charge sheet was not properly analyzed by the High Court, we must conclude that the charge sheet was incorrectly handled by the High Court “While reserving the verdict, the Bench stated.

Senior Advocate Basava Prabhu S Patil, who was representing the accused Mohan Nayak, maintained that his client had no involvement in the real incident. Furthermore, if he were to be enlisted under the KCOCA, there is no evidence of his involvement with the criminal gang. The Bench, on the other hand, stated that these difficulties can be noticed throughout the trial.

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