In reference to the murder of journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru last month, the Bombay High Court stated that the “trend of killing all opposition is dangerous” and is bringing disrepute to the country. The court added “there is no respect for liberal values and opinion.
Division bench comprising of Justices S C Dharmadhikari and Vibha Kankanvadi was hearing petitions filed by relatives of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, requesting the court to head the probes into their deaths.
“Will more people be targeted? There is no respect for liberal values and opinions. People are increasingly being targeted for their liberal principles… Not just thinkers, but any person or organisation that believes in liberal principles can be targeted. It’s like if there is some opposition to me, I must have that person eliminated,” said Justice Dharmadhikari.
“This trend of killing all opposition is dangerous. This is giving a bad reputation to the country,” the bench said.
Dabholkar was shot in Pune on August 20, 2013. While Pansare was attacked in Kolhapur on February 16, 2015, he died four days later. The CBI and Maharashtra CID submitted their inquiry reports in the Dabholkar and Pansare cases respectively.
“While your efforts are genuine, the fact remains that the prime accused are still absconding,” said the court. “Between every adjournment, more precious lives seem to be lost… (a) like-minded person has been killed in Bangalore,” it added.
Lankesh was shot outside her residence in Bengaluru by unknown assailants on September 5.
The bench asked what would guarantee that more people would not be targeted for their beliefs and principles in the future. “If the accused persons and organisations are feeling emboldened, then the probe agencies should take that as a challenge,” it said.
The court advised the agencies investigating into the matter to look at changing their line of investigation, and take the help of technology to catch the killers. “They have organisational backing, funding, technological support, and arms at their disposal,” said the court.
Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar, the two men identified by the CBI as Dabholkar’s attackers, are yet to be nabbed.
The bench, however, dismissed the apprehensions of Abhay Nevagi, counsel for Dabholkar and Pansare’s families, that the agencies were not probing the role of Sanatan Sanstha. “While the court can’t make details of the probe public, we can say this much that the probe reports have examined all angles. They have not ignored the possibility of the role of Sanatan Sanstha in the case,” said Justice Dharamadhikari.