NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday reversed a Karnataka HC decision and ruled that those accused in the murder case of journalist Gauri Lankesh will face charges under the provisions of the stringent Karnataka Control of Organised Crimes Act (KCOCA) apart from IPC Section 302 and arms and explosives laws. A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and CT Ravikumar said the HC completely misread the provisions of the KCOCA and their employment in a case that prima facie showed characters of an organised crime. The bench added that the HC erred in quashing the charges under the Act against the accused. Lankesh was shot dead on September 5, 2017 in Bengaluru. Her sister and the Karnataka government had appealed before the SC against the HC judgment giving the alleged assailants reprieve from KCOCA. A murder case was initially registered. But after the special investigation team (SIT) took over the probe, it had submitted a report to the chief Investigating officer, who had sought approval of the Bengaluru police commissioner for invoking Section 3 of KCOCA, while opining that it was an organised crime. The necessary approval to invoke KCOCA was given on August 14, 2018. Justice Khanwilkar said the HC should have inquired whether the factual matrix of the crime, as evident from the investigation, needed invoking KCOCA and not look at the initial FIR which registered the crime as a plain murder case. The bench said, “At the relevant time, the material regarding offence having been committed by an organised crime syndicate was not known. That information came to the fore only after the SIT investigation.” The SC said the high court committed manifest error and exceeded its jurisdiction in quashing the chargesheet filed before the competent court on the basis of a writ petition filed regarding offences under KCOCA.

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