Supreme Court Declines to Quash Charges Against Former Karnataka Minister Vinay Kulkarni

The Supreme Court of India, on Monday, declined to intervene in the charges framed against former Karnataka minister Vinay Kulkarni, relating to the murder of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) worker Yogesh Gowda in Dharwad district, 2016. A vacation bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kumar and Augustine George Masih rejected the plea to overturn a Karnataka High Court order that also refused to interfere with the special court’s decision.

Senior Advocate Siddhartha Dave, representing Kulkarni, argued that his client was implicated only in a subsequent charge sheet by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and noted that the initial statements by the deceased’s widow did not mention Kulkarni. In a sharp response, the bench remarked, “You obviously bought over the widow. SLP dismissed,” signaling their decision to dismiss the special leave petition filed by Kulkarni.

Further, when Dave requested permission to withdraw the petition, the bench sternly denied the request and criticized the practice of ‘trying one’s luck’ at the Supreme Court. “This has to stop. This trying your luck at the Supreme Court then back out, this court has become a gambling court or what?” the bench commented.

The legal saga began when Yogesh Gowda, a BJP zila panchayat member, was murdered on June 15, 2016. The case took a significant turn in September 2019, when the state government transferred the investigation to the CBI. Following a detailed investigation, the agency arrested Kulkarni in November 2020, citing personal enmity and political rivalry as motives behind the murder, accusing him of pressuring Gowda to withdraw from the zila panchayat elections.

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The High Court on April 8 supported the charges framed by the special court, which was established specifically to handle criminal cases against current and former MPs and MLAs, and emphasized that the judge of the special court followed due process. The court also directed the special court to complete the trial and resolve the criminal case against Kulkarni preferably within three months, underlining the need for timely justice in cases involving public figures.

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