Almost five months after journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh was shot dead by unidentified shooters on September 5 in front of her residence in Rajarajeshwari Nagar, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted the very next day is yet to make any breakthrough, let alone conclusively crack the case.
Although the Home Department on Friday revealed that some arrests were likely within a few days, a senior official of the SIT said the probe had not led to any credible clues about the killers. Retired police officials and experts feel there is something wrong in the manner in which the 61-member-strong SIT was constituted -- every member of this investigative team is taken on an additional charge, which means the focus on the probe is diverted.
All of them who are part of the SIT, including its chief, then Inspector General of Police and now the Additional Commissioner of Police BK Singh, and chief investigating officer Deputy Commissioner of Police Anucheth, are holding additional responsibilities.S Mariswamy, the former City Police Commissioner felt that the officials who are part of SIT should not have additional charges. “An investigation process is a totally dedicated affair and officers should be passionate about cracking case,” he said. "I was not aware that investigation officer and his team are handling their daily routine along with the Gauri case. It is just not the way of investigating."
Former DGP MD Singh says, according the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) there is nothing called Special Investigating Team (SIT). SIT is a creation of the media, courts and political parties to just pass the message to the public that some sort of special action is being taken. Here in this particular case, numbers don’t matter, it is all about the quality of people.
“I think the senior most officer should be made the investigating officer rather than just supervising officer. We can expect better results then,” he said.A retired IPS officer, who preferred not to be identified, said, “I think SIT has taken a long time to break through this case. I personally feel the government should announce Rs 1 crore for those giving out information about the killers. It is just another way to crack the case…probably a quicker way!”
DIVIDED AND DILUTED
Sources close to the investigation have revealed that the focus on the case was lost long back due to the frequent deputation of police to attend other issues like protests, bandobust and other events. It’s almost a one-man battle, wherein Anucheth keeps track of everything. The DCP (crime-2) of city, Jinendra Khanagavi, who is also part of the SIT, is stuck in dual roles, say sources. Personnel picked from city crime teams also have lost interest in the case as their focus is frequently diverted to attend to station-level cases.
The SIT has one IGP-ranked officer, three DCPs, four ACPs, 12 inspectors and nearly 50 officials from various divisions of police department, especially from state intelligence.
The basic and advance probe in the case was done in the first few days after the case was registered. Gun dealers were contacted, suspects were questioned, huge Call Details Record (CDR) were taken and places like Belagavi, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pune were visited by different teams. The team members also contacted a few sharpshooters who extended their help. Despite all these efforts, the SIT is yet to make a breakthrough in the case.
BK Singh, Additional Commissioner (West), who is heading SIT, told The New Indian Express,“I do not want to comment on what Indrajit (Lankesh, Gauri’s brother) is demanding. SIT is confident of cracking the case soon; but it is too early to reveal reveal the investigation in which a few angles are opened to probe the case.” He defended the SIT, saying “Although SIT officials have additional charges, the team is completely dedicated to the investigation process. They all are updating daily developments about the case to me. A million phone call records have been verified to solve the case.”
WHAT HAS SIT DONE SO FAR ?
September 6 : Government forms a Special Investigation Team headed by B K Singh, then IGP Intelligence
September 7 : SIT members along with FSL (Forensic Science Laboratory) experts reconstruct the crime scene to gather clues and some officials also collect documents from Gauri’s office located in Gandhibazaar.
September 8 : A team from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra join the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to assist the probe.
September 11 : A 21-member Special Investigation Team was given 44 officers. The SIT was in touch with and gathering information from police counterparts in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
September 12 : SIT gathers information from CID over MM Kalaburgi case, and also teams visit Dharwad in Karnataka and Maharashtra where two other rationalists were gunned down in the past.
October 14 : SIT releases three sketches of two suspects and asks for information by the public too.
December 8 : SIT visits several prisons in the state to gather information on sharp shooters, supari killers and arm dealers. Some were detained for interrogation while a couple were arrested by the city police during the investigation for stocking illegal weapons.