As the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh believes it is close to wrapping up its investigation, KT Naveen Kumar, the first person arrested in connection with the case has sought bail.
The arguments were made in Court Hall 70 of the City Civil Court on Thursday. Defendant Vedamurthy, appearing for the accused, also alleged that Naveen was coerced into confessing to playing a part in the conspiracy to kill Gauri Lankesh.
He also raised doubts about the SIT's investigation into Gauri Lankesh's murder by claiming that the same police official involved in the initial arrest of Naveen later took over the SIT investigation and charged Naveen of being involved in Gauri Lankesh's murder.
Naveen Kumar was arrested by the Upparpet Police on February 18 this year in Bengaluru, for allegedly transporting an illegal firearm and fifteen .32 calibre bullets. He was held in police custody for fourteen days following which he was taken into questioning by the SIT. At the time, MN Anucheth was DCP West and the same official is the investigating officer in the SIT team probing the Gauri Lankesh's death. Naveen's arrest was also the first breakthrough in the investigation into the journalist's murder.
Naveen Kumar, along with another accused Praveen, were charged with Sections 118 (concealing design to commit offence), 114 (criminal abetment) 120B (criminal conspiracy), 35 (criminal intent) of the Indian Penal Code in the 650-page preliminary charge sheet filed by the SIT.
On Thursday, defendant lawyer Vedamurthy questioned the veracity of the statements of three key witnesses submitted by the SIT and alleged that the police probing the death have arrested Naveen based on the statements given by them. He also added that the police was yet to complete the identification process of KT Naveen Kumar.
The first witness statement referred to an incident in Srirangapatna in Mandya and alleged that Naveen Kumar was a prominent part of pro-Hindu organisations, particularly the Hindu Dharma Jagrana Vedike in Mandya. It also went on to say that Naveen Kumar targeted businesses of Muslims. "There is no clarity when this incident happened as neither police nor the witness has specified a date and we do not know if this is linked to Gauri Lankesh's murder," he said.
He similarly raised doubts about two other witness statements, one of which stated that Naveen claimed that his associates killed Gauri Lankesh. "There are inconsistencies in the statements given by the witnesses. On one instance, it is claimed that accused carried a gun with him and on the other, a witness claims he was trying to procure an air gun. This is a conflict," he added.
The hearing was adjourned to June 26 and public prosecutor Narendra TN is expected to file objections to the defendant's plea.