The Bengaluru Central Crime Branch police on Saturday arrested cow vigilante Punith Kerehalli alias Punith Kumar under the Goonda Act for his alleged involvement in crimes over the last 10 years as an activist of Rashtra Rakshana Pade, a self-styled right-wing outfit.
Kerehalli, 35, was arrested after Bengaluru Police Commissioner B Dayananda approved his declaration as a goonda under the Goonda Act, following a recommendation by the Central Crime Branch police, on Friday.
The Karnataka Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Drug-Offenders, Gamblers, Goondas, Immoral Traffic Offenders, Slum Grabbers and Video or Audio Pirates Act of 1985, known as the Goonda Act, allows the “detention of persons who are engaged in committing or abetting the commission of offences against public tranquillity”. The detention can be for a maximum period of one year.
The Bengaluru police had earlier issued a notice to Kerehalli on June 26 for inclusion of his name in the list of persons designated as rowdies in Karnataka on account of his involvement in six crimes in the state since 2021, including alleged murder, assault and criminal intimidation. The police have sought a response from him as to why his name should not be added to the rowdies list for Bengaluru.
Kerehalli was most recently accused in the case of the death of cattle transporter Idrees Pasha, who was allegedly stopped and attacked in the Ramanagara region bordering Bengaluru by Kerehalli and his associates on the intervening night of March 31 and April 1. A preliminary probe revealed that Pasha died due to cardiac arrest but the police suspect that the accused may have used a stun gun to neutralise Pasha which might have led to a cardiac arrest. Kerehalli was granted bail by the Karnataka high court in May based on an autopsy report that suggested a heart attack death.
In a second case involving cow vigilantism, Kerehalli is accused of stopping transporter Aleemulla Baig with accusations of illegal cattle transport in the Electronic City police limits of Bengaluru on March 20, 2023. A case was filed by the victim after Pasha’s death. Kerehalli and his associates allegedly beat up Baig and the driver and used a stun gun to administer electric shocks.
A third case cited by the Bengaluru police to declare Kerehalli a rowdy is an August 2021 case registered by the Begur police over efforts to install a religious statue at the Begur Lake despite a high court order for the preservation of the lake.
The Bengaluru police have also cited two other cases: an SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and criminal intimidation case at Chamarajpet in December 2022, and a January 2022 case filed by a police official at the Hampi Tourism police station against Kerehalli and nine others for violation of Covid norms.