A sessions court has rejected a bail plea – citing delays in the start of their trial – of six of the 18 accused in the 2018 killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh, indicating that part of the reason for the delay was the frequent filing of intervening applications by the accused themselves.
Amit Degwekar, Bharat Kurne, Rajesh Bangera, Sudhanwa Gondhalekar, Sujith Kumar and Manohar Edave – who are associated with Sanatan Sanstha and its affiliate Hindu Janajagruti Samiti – sought bail on the grounds that the trial in their case had not commenced despite a February 2019 court order to expedite it.
The accused were arrested in 2018 by a Special Investigation Team of Karnataka Police after investigations revealed that they were part of a secretive outfit spawned by the Sanatan Sanstha’s extremist religious ideology. The SIT probe revealed that members of the outfit gunned down Gauri Lankesh, 55, Kannada scholar M M Kalburgi, 77, and Maharashtra progressive thinkers Govind Pansare, 81 and Narendra Dabholkar, 69, between 2013 and 2018.
The sessions court rejected their bail plea on February 20, stating that part of the reason for the delay in the commencement of the trial – apart from the Covid-19 crisis – was frequent applications filed by the accused themselves. “On perusal of the entire order sheet, it would go to show that the matter came to be adjourned from time to time, due to an intervening application filed by one or the other accused,” the court observed.
“The hearing of earlier bail application and discharge application also has consumed sufficient time. Thereafter, in the year 2020, due to pandemic Covid-19, functioning of court was stalled. The accused No 1 to 18 are split and placed in different jails and are represented by separate counsel. The order sheet also would reveal at whose instance the case was being adjourned,” the court said.
“Therefore, under these circumstances, in my opinion the delay in commencing the trial cannot be a ground for grant of bail to the accused. Therefore for these reasons I am of the opinion that the accused are not entitled for bail,” it said.
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