The Centre on Friday told the Supreme Court that the NIA, being a special agency to probe national and inter-state terrorism cases, cannot investigate the murder of noted scholar and rationalist M M Kalburgi in 2015 at Dharwad in Karnataka.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra was hearing the plea of Uma Devi Kalburgi, the widow of the slain scholar, seeking a SIT probe into the sensational murder.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Pinky Anand, appearing for the Centre, referred to the National Investigaiton Agency (NIA) Act and said the instant offence did not fall under the category of ‘Schedule offence’ under the law and hence, the probe agency cannot investigate it.

The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, considered the submission of the ASG and ordered listing of the plea in the first week of July. It asked the CBI and the governments of Maharashtra and Karnataka to file their responses in the meantime.

77-year old Kalburgi, the former Vice-Chancellor of Hampi University and a well-known scholar and epigraphist, was shot dead in broad daylight at his residence in Kalyan Nagar in Dharwad, Karnataka, on August 30, 2015. Born in 1938, he was a Sahitya Akademi award-winning writer of old Kannada literature.

The top court had on January 10 sought the response of probe agencies NIA and CBI and the two state governments on the allegation of Uma Devi that no substantial investigation has been carried out so far in the murder case.

Kalburgi’s wife, in her petition filed through advocate Krishna Kumar, has alleged that there was common link between the murder of her husband and that of intellectual activists, Narendra Achyut Dabholkar and Govindrao Pansare, who too were assassinated in August 2013 and February 2015 respectively.

Dabholkar was shot at on August 20, 2013 in Pune, while Pansare was killed in Kolhapur in Maharashtra on February 16, 2015.

She said the investigations in Dabholkar and Pansare murder cases were in a “sorry state” and no progress has been made in bringing the killers to book.

The petition said that in 2016, the then Karnataka Home Minister had in a statement claimed that as per the forensic analysis of cartridges recovered from the three separate crime scenes, the three murders were linked.

It alleged that one of the weapons used in the murder of Pansare was used to kill Kalburgi and therefore coordination between Maharashtra police and Karnataka police, besides the CBI and the NIA, was required.

“Although sketches of suspects were released after four days of Kalburgi’s murder and statement was issued by Karnataka government that conclusive evidence of nexus of murders of all three activists was found, there has been no progress in the investigation till date,” the plea has said.