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March 23, 2018
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SIT claims ‘larger conspiracy’, submits details in sealed cover to courtList of suspects in the murder case includes those from Karnataka and outside of it, say sources

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) claimed knowledge of a “larger conspiracy” behind the murder of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh and submitted related details with names of other suspects to the court in a sealed cover on Friday.

The list of suspects includes those from Karnataka and outside of it, sources said. A massive manhunt has been launched to nab these suspects, along with one Praveen, who was named as an accused in the court based on inputs given by K.T. Naveen Kumar who has been arrested in the case. Teams have fanned out in coastal Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa. SIT officials, who refused to disclose more details on the grounds that they would hamper further probe, requested judge V. Prakash not to name the suspects in his order.

To a specific question by the judge whether Naveen was the main accused, assistant public prosecutor Nirmal Rani said, “The main accused are yet to be arrested and the details have been submitted in a sealed cover.” A senior SIT official said Naveen was indeed in knowledge of the conspiracy and “aided and assisted its execution”, but in a “peripheral role”.

A senior SIT official said they were on the trail of a group of men who were “high up” in the chain of conspiracy, mostly from Karnataka. “There are many others from the State involved in the conspiracy to kill Gauri. The hitmen who shot her may have come from outside the State,” the official said. The police suspect that the team of hitmen who shot Gauri in September 2017 and the group that had visited the State to target writer K.S. Bhagavan were different, but Naveen knew both the teams.

Decision on neuro-psychological tests deferred

The SIT has sought permission of the court to conduct of neuro-psychological assessment tests — narco analysis, polygraph (called the lie detector test) and brain electrical oscillation signature profiling (brain mapping) — on Naveen Kumar.

“While the accused has revealed some information, he has also been concealing a lot. So these tests are necessary,” assistant public prosecutor Nirmal Rani told the court. “If the court accepts the prayer, we will book an appointment with the FSL, Ahmedabad, where these tests are conducted, and we are willing to let the defence counsel to be present during the tests.”

Though the SIT presented a CD with a video recording of the accused giving his consent for the tests, in presence of five independent witnesses, Naveen refused consent for the tests in the court. Judge V. Prakash, reserved orders on the matter for March 15. Defence counsel Vedamurthy said the very fact that the SIT had sought narco analysis and other tests were testimony that it had precious little against Naveen, and accused the police of framing him.

SIT sources also said they had sent voice samples of Naveen to the FSL, Madiwala, to be matched with some of the audio recordings they had of Naveen during surveillance. They have also sent visuals of the reconstruction of a recee of Gauri’s house to be matched with visual of CCTV camera footage showing a man doing a recee of the house on September 3 and 5, 2017.

Hindu Vidhidyna Parishad

Members of the Hindu Vidhidyna Parishad (HVP) — a group of lawyers formed to fight on behalf of “Hindus who are framed in false cases” — were present in the court here when K.T. Naveen Kumar was produced on Friday. The parishad has in the past repeatedly defended Goa-based organisation Sanatan Sanstha. Virendra S. Ichalkaranjikar, national president of the parishad and a defence lawyer of the accused in the murders of Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, was assisting Naveen’s counsel Vedamurthy.

N.P. Amrutesh, an advocate of the High Court of Karnataka and a founding member of the parishad, was also present in the court.

Mr. Ichalkaranjikar told The Media that the case against Naveen was very weak. “The prosecution case seems to be very similar to those of Dabholkar and Pansare. Naveen has been framed. We have been fighting for all Hindus who have been framed falsely, so we have come here to help the legal team defending Naveen,” he said.