THE duo arrested in connection with the murder of anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar did a U-turn on Tuesday when they said in court that the allegation made by them about being offered Rs 25 lakh by ATS chief Rakesh Maria for owning up to the crime was untrue and made after an emotional outburst.
Suspects Manish Nagori (24) and Vilas Khandelwal (22) have spent six days in the custody of Pune Police since they made the allegation against Maria on January 21 in front of the Judicial Magistrate (First Class) A B Shaikh.
Reacting to the statement made by the suspects, the judge expressed amazement as to what could have caused the change of opinion in a span of a week.
On Tuesday afternoon, investigating officer Rajendra Bhamre (ACP, Crime Branch) produced the duo before the court requesting extension of police remand by seven days. The court asked Nagori and Khandelwal if they wished to say anything but also asked them to restrict themselves to the present case.
Nagori said, “Sir, what we said that day about the offer of money, we said in an emotional outburst and a fit of anger.” To this the court replied: “If you had any complaint about the ATS, you should have put it in front of the magistrate concerned.”
The prosecution requested the court to extend the police custody, claiming that the duo were not co-operating in the investigation. The police, however, claimed that Khandelwal admitted that the 7.65 mm pistol — which they believe was used for killing Dabholkar — was given to him by Nagori.
“The police have been asking them questions about the conspiracy of the murder, the motive, the accomplices and their whereabouts, but the suspects are not giving proper answers. They are trying to give us misleading information… police are yet to obtain information from them regarding the person in whose possession the pistol was and how it came back to the suspects after the crime, along with details of the two-wheeler used in the crime,” argued public prosecutor Madhav Poul.
Countering the prosecution’s argument, defence lawyer B A Aloor submitted to the court that the grounds given by the investigators are not enough to extend the police custody.
“I have learnt from the suspects that in the past six days, they were taken out of the custody for probe by the police for only an hour. Also, in their remand reports, the police have cited no progress in the investigation in the past seven days. From the suspects the police have learnt nothing about the conspiracy, the perpetrators and the vehicle used in the crime because the suspects don’t know anything about it,” said Aloor.
He argued that if further custody is granted, there is a possibility that the police might put pressure on the suspects to falsely confess to the crime by torturing and threatening them.
“I have learnt from my clients that the police are putting mental pressure on them to make them confess a crime they haven’t committed. If further custody is granted, it will be used for putting the suspects under duress and for falsely implicating them. The court should ensure that injustice is not done to the suspects,” said Aloor.
The court remanded Nagori and Khandelwal to police custody till February 4.