Paving the way for a trial to begin in the murder case of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh, a trial court in Bengaluru framed charges against the accused persons in the case on Saturday, October 30. The next date of hearing in the case has been fixed for December 8. As part of the proceedings on Saturday, eleven of the accused were produced from the Bengaluru Central Jail through video conferencing, while the other seven accused in the case were presented before the court via video conferencing from the Arthur Road Prison in Mumbai and Yerwada jail in Pune in Maharashtra.
Journalist Gauri Lankesh was shot dead in front of her residence in Rajarajeshwari Nagar in Bengaluru on September 5, 2017, by assailants who used a country-made gun.
Since then, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed to solve the murder case has arrested a total of 18 persons, all affiliated to fringe pro-Hindu groups, like in the murder cases of other noted rationalists MM Kalaburagi, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare. The SIT had identified the shooter as Parashuram Waghmare. Amol Kale has been named as accused number one. Amit Degwekar and Sujith Kumar have been named as the prime conspirators who planned the murder.
The other accused are Ganesh Miskin, Amith Badd, Bharath Kurane, Suresh HL, Rajesh Bangera, Sudhanva Gondalekar, Sharad Kalaskar, Mohan Nayak, Vasudev Suryavamshi, Manohara Edave, Srikanth Pangarkar, Naveen Kumar, and Rushikesh Deodikar. They have been charged under the following sections: Sections 302 (punishment for murder), 120B (criminal conspiracy), 114 (absent abettor when crime is committed), 118 (concealing design to commit offence), 109 ( offence of abetment for the act of committing the murder), 201 (disappearance of evidence of offence), 203 (giving false information with respect ot an offence), 204 (destruction of evidence), 35 (an act done with a criminal knowledge or intention) of the Indian Penal code as well as sections of the Arms Act and Karnataka Organised Crime Act.
The charges were read over and explained to the accused persons in the language known to them in Marathi and Kannada, since Marathi is known to the presiding officer, in the presence of their counsel before the court. The court noted, “The accused persons after having understood the same pleaded not guilty and claim to be tried. The obtaining of the signature of the accused on the certificate of charge is dispensed with since the same is recorded through video conferencing.”
The court also allowed the accused to consult their lawyers in jail before fixing the trial. The court further ordered Bengaluru Central jail authority to not to transfer any of the accused to any other prison without a specific order from this court in that regard so as to conduct a smooth trial.