The Karnataka High Court has granted bail to an accused, Mohan Nayak, in connection with the murder of activist-journalist Gauri Lankesh in 2017.
Nayak is the first accused to get bail in the case.
An order pronouncing the verdict was passed by a single-judge bench of Justice S Vishwajith Shetty.
Nayak has been asked to furnish a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh with two sureties for similar amounts and appear before the trial court on all dates of the hearing unless the court exempted his appearance for valid reasons.
One of the grounds on which Nayak was granted bail was the delay in the trial.
“In the present case, out of 527 charge sheet witnesses, only 90 witnesses have been examined. This Court on 11.02.2019 directed the Trial Court to expedite the trial. Though charges were framed in the present case on 30.10.2021, for the last more than two years, only 90 witnesses have been examined. There are more than 400 charge sheet witnesses who are yet to be examined in the case.
Even if it is assumed that all the witnesses mentioned in the charge sheet may not be examined in the case, considering the fact that only 90 witnesses have been examined for the last more than two years, it can be safely presumed that any time soon, the trial of the case may not be completed,” the HC said in its judgement.
Nayak is in custody since July 18, 2018.
Considering the delay, the HC said, “Petitioner has been in custody for the last more than five years. Though Section 22(4) of COCA provides for certain rigors for enlarging the accused on bail as against whom charges are made for the offences punishable under the COCA, the same cannot fetter the powers of this Court to enlarge the accused on bail when there is undue delay in trial and the material on record would go to show that the trial may not be completed any time soon.”