Long wait for justice: Court likely to pronounce verdict in Dabholkar murder case tomorrow - Hindustan Times
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Long wait for justice: Court likely to pronounce verdict in Dabholkar murder case tomorrow

ByNadeem Inamdar
May 09, 2024 04:42 AM IST

Dabholkar, then 67, while on a morning walk, was shot dead by two motorcycle-borne assailants near Omkareshwar Bridge in Shaniwar Peth.

Pune: Special Judge PP Jadhav is likely to deliver the verdict in the murder case of Narendra Dabholkar, on Friday, around 11 years after the rationalist was shot dead.

The order, if the court sticks to the date and delivers on May 10, will be just three days before 11 of Maharashtra’s constituencies including Pune, Ahmednagar, and Sambhajinagar go to polls in LS elections. (HT PHOTO)
The order, if the court sticks to the date and delivers on May 10, will be just three days before 11 of Maharashtra’s constituencies including Pune, Ahmednagar, and Sambhajinagar go to polls in LS elections. (HT PHOTO)

Dabholkar, then 67, while on a morning walk, was shot dead by two motorcycle-borne assailants near Omkareshwar Bridge in Shaniwar Peth on August 20, 2013.The rationalist, founder of Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS), dedicated his life to the eradication of social evils, religious superstition and caste system.

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During the trial, the prosecution examined 20 witnesses while the defence examined two witnesses. Special public prosecutor, said, “We have examined 20 witnesses, and the trial has been completed and the case is at the stage of final order now.”

The order, if the court sticks to the date and delivers on May 10, will be just three days before 11 of Maharashtra’s constituencies including Pune, Ahmednagar, and Sambhajinagar go to polls in LS elections.

Following the murder, then Prithviraj Chavan led Congress- Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government faced criticism even as the arrests of Sanatan-associated individuals in 2015-16 brought the right-wing group’s operations under scanner with demands for a ban on it, which the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Devendra Fadnavis government then refuted.

Initially, the Pune police were investigating the murder, but the case was later handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in June 2014 as per the directions of the Bombay High Court.

On September 15, 2021, the hearing in the Dabholkar murder case commenced in a city-based special court days after the arrest of Virendrasinh Tawde, an ENT surgeon from Navi Mumbai.

Accordingly, charges were framed against five persons including Tawde, Sachin Andure, Sharad Kalaskar, Sanjeev Punalekar and Vikram Bhave, all associated with Sanatan Sanstha. Tawade, Andure and Kalaskar are in prison while Punalekar and Bhave are out on bail.

Prakash Silsingikar, defence lawyer, said, “Two of our witnesses have been examined from the defence side and we have always denied their role in the murder.”

Dabholkar’s assassination was followed by the killing of senior communist leader Govind Pansare in February 2015, Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi in August 2015 and outspoken activist journalist Gauri Lankesh in September 2017.

Investigating agencies believe there is a common link and possible use of the same weapon to assassinate the rationalists.

The investigating agency has still not been able to recover the murder weapon which was used to kill the rationalist.

Five months after the killing, two suspected arms dealers - Manish Nagori alias Manya and his associate Vikas Khandelwal, both from Ichalkaranji, who were in magisterial custody since August 2013, were arrested for the murder.

The two suspects later accused Maharashtra ATS headed by then Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief and well-known IPS officer Rakesh Maria of offering 25 lakh to them to own up to the murder. In April 2014, they were set out on bail as Pune police and ATS failed to file a chargesheet.

In October 2015, the CBI informed the Bombay High Court that two Sanatan Sanstha activists were under their scanner in Dabholkar murder case.

In June 2016, the CBI raided two places in Pune and Navi Mumbai in connection with the murder of Dabholkar CBI and arrested ENT surgeon Dr Virendrasinh Tawde, a Sanatan activist. Two more Sanatan Sanstha members identified as Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar were named but were not arrested.

The Maharashtra ATS later arrested Sachin Andhure, whom the CBI identified as one of the shooters in the killing. Raut and Kalaskar were arrested from Nalasopara in Palghar district.

During the trial, the High Court took CBI to task and expressed its annoyance with the agency. While hearing the petition filed by Dabholkar family, the division bench of Justices SC Dharmadhikari and RI Chagla stated: “There should be some certainty about the trial. There should be no failure of justice delivery…both for the victims and their families and the arrested accused.”

Advocate Omkar Nevgi representing Narendra Dabholkar’s family in March this year submitted a 32-page document “Written Notes of Arguments” before Special Judge PP Jadhav.

The family of the slain rationalist argued before the court that the prosecution had proved that the murder had been committed by Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar “beyond reasonable doubt”. They prayed that maximum punishment u/s 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 be awarded to the accused.

On Friday, Hamid Dabholkar, the slain rationalist’s son, refused to comment on the case.

A timeline of the murder case

August 20, 2013: Rationalist Narendra Dabholkar shot dead in Pune

August 23, 2013: City police teams formed to crack the case

August 29, 2013: Sanatan worker taken into custody from Goa

August 30, 2013: Eight crore emails and phone calls investigated

April 3, 2014: Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted

May 10, 2014: Case transferred from Pune Police to CBI

August 2, 2015: Andhshraddha Nirmulan Samiti writes letter to president regarding delay in the case

May 4, 2016: Court pulled up CBI for ‘shoddy’ investigation in the case after which it began fresh searches in Panvel and Pune

February 17, 2016: Polygraph test conducted on Sanatan Sadhak, Nilesh Shinde and Hemant Shinde

May 31, 2016: CBI raids residences of Dr Virendra Tawade and Sarang Akolkar

June 11, 2016: CBI arrests Dr Tawde of Sanatan Sanstha, and file a chargesheet against him in September the same year

May 21, 2018: Karnataka SIT arrested five persons including Amol Kale from Pimpri Chinchwad in connection with Gauri Lankesh murder case

June 30, 2018: Diary recovered from Amol Kale states information about Vaibhav Raut, progressive writers’ list from Maharashtra and Karnataka and 36 others who are on the hitlist of rightwing groups.

August 18, 2018: CBI arrests Sachin Prakasrao Andure, suspected of being one of the gunmen

May 25, 2019: CBI found that Sanatan Sanstha’s counsel, Sanjeev Punalekar, helped destroy the weapons used in the murders of Dabholkar and journalist Gauri Lankesh

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