New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear the Karnataka government’s petition challenging an order of the Karnataka High Court which acquitted all 12 accused in the 2012 murder of RTI activist and editor of ‘Maha Prachanda’ newspaper Lingaraju citing lack of corroboratory evidence. A bench of Justices Vikram Nath and Ahsanuddin Amanullah issued notices to those who were acquitted in the case and sought their replies. Additional Advocate General Aman Panwar and advocate V N Raghupathy appeared in the case on behalf of the state.
The Karnataka government has moved the apex court against the November 4, 2022 order of the high court acquitting the accused. Lingaraju was attacked by three armed men near his house on November 20, 2012 while he was drawing water from a public tap. His wife Uma Devi, who was with him on that day, filed the complaint and also named Govindaraju, a former Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) corporator, as a suspect. She alleged that Govindaraju suspected Lingaraju’s hand in a Lokayukta raid on his house and harboured a grudge against him. Police filed the charge sheet against 12 accused — Rangaswamy, R Shankar, Raghavendra, Govindaraju, Gowramma (wife of Govindaraju), Chandra, Shankar, Umashankara, Velu, Loganatha, Jaheer and Suresh.
After the completion of the trial, the Additional City Civil and Sessions Judge court on October 28, 2020 found the accused guilty and sentenced them to life imprisonment. They were also sentenced under other charges under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). All the accused approached the high court in appeal. A division bench of the high court disposed of the batch of four criminal appeals filed by the accused and acquitted all 12. One of the main reasons for their acquittal was the lack of corroboratory evidence.
The HC found the evidence of the other witnesses did not match that of the deceased’s wife and son. “A cursory glance of the evidence of prosecution witnesses of identifying the accused persons who are alleged to have involved in committing the murder of the deceased, it is seen that their evidence does not find corroborated with the independent evidence or even with the evidence of Uma Devi, the author of the complainant, or even with the evidence of Karthik, the son of the deceased Lingaraju,” the HC said. “Even the evidence of the wife and son were not consistent.
Even though they (wife and son) have given their statements relating to assaulting the deceased Lingaraju by means of deadly weapons, but they have not withstood the versions of their statements to prove the guilt of the accused that the accused have committed the murder of the deceased Lingaraju, an RTI activist and the Editor of Mahaprachanda newspaper,” the HC said. Acquitting all the accused, the HC said hen the case of the prosecution in entirety is found to be doubtful and is “full of inconsistencies” and when doubt arises in criminal justice delivery system, benefit of doubt shall always accrue in favour of the accused alone. “In the instant case, the prosecution has failed to establish the guilt of the accused persons by facilitating worthwhile evidence,” the court had said
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