The High Court of Karnataka has dismissed a petition filed by an accused in the journalist Gauri Lankesh murder case seeking default bail' by challenging a Special Court's order.

Hrishikesh Devdikar, the accused No. 18 in the case was arrested in January 2020 and sent to judicial custody in connection with the case. Later, he filed an application for statutory/default bail' under Section 167(2) of CrPC in the Special Court. However, his application was not considered by the court. Hence, he approached the High Court.

The main contention of the accused was that since it was a murder case, a charge sheet had to be filed within 90 days of his arrest. But no charge sheet was filed against him even on April 4, 2020, so he should automatically get bail as per Subsection (2) of Section 167 of CrPC.

Advocate Kiran B.S. appeared for the accused while Special Public Prosecutor Ashok N. Naik appeared for the state.

The public prosecutor argued that Devdikar was absconding and a charge sheet had already been filed in his absence.

On October 21,2022, Justice Suraj Govindaraj rejected the plea stating that the charge sheet in the case was already filed before this accused was arrested. Therefore, he cannot seek the benefit of Subsection (2) of Section 167 of CrPc.

An accused would not be entitled to the benefit under Subsection (2) of Section 167 of CrPC, in the event of charges sheet having already been filed before his arrest, the Court held.

"I am of the considered opinion that in the present case, charge sheet having been laid against the petitioner even prior to the arrest of the petitioner, the petitioner having been arraigned as an accused and charged with certain offences...I am of the considered opinion that the benefit under Subsection (2) of Section 167 of Cr.P.C. would not arise", the Court held.

The Court had framed and answered five questions. The Court held that the fact of the accused absconding or delaying the investigation during the period of he being absconding would not be relevant for consideration of application Subsection (2) of Section 167 of Cr.P.C.

Cause Title: Hrishikesh Devdikar v. State of Karnataka

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