THE Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) recently recorded the statement of the former assistant director of the Mumbai Forensic Sciences Laboratory (FSL) Ravindra Jagtap, based on whose report the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad had earlier claimed a breakthrough in the probe into the murder of Pune-based rationalist Narendra Dabholkar. Two forensic reports have contradicted claims made previously by the Mumbai FSL in Kalina, and the CBI is now investigating whether the initial arrests made in the Dabholkar murder case were correct.
Sources said the CBI found discrepancies between the statement given by the expert who prepared the Mumbai FSL report and those of other officials who were quizzed on procedures adopted by the Kalina FSL while conducting tests. “While Jagtap stood by his findings, his statement has been contradicted by other officials of the Mumbai FSL, who were questioned on the standard procedures and practices followed while conducting ballistic tests,” said an official. Jagtap is currently posted as the Assistant Deputy Director at Kolhapur FSL.
Two Navi Mumbai-based arms dealers — Vikas Khandelwal and Manish Nagori — were apprehended by the Navi Mumbai police from Kopar Khairane within less than three hours of Dabholkar’s murder. They were picked up in an extortion case not related to the killing. Dabholkar was killed on August 20, 2013 at 7.30 am. Subsequently, in December that year, the Maharashtra ATS took their custody in a firearms case and sent the ‘weapons’ recovered from them for forensic analysis. Based on the FSL findings that one of the weapons recovered from the duo was used in the Dabholkar murder, the ATS claimed a breakthrough and handed over the two to the Pune police.
However, in 2015, a year after the CBI took over the case, the findings of the Mumbai FSL were contradicted twice, first by the Bengaluru FSL and then by the Gujarat FSL. Both concluded that of the bullets and cartridges recovered from the scene of murder of Kolhapur-based CPI leader Govind Pansare, one matched with those used in the killing of Karnataka-based rationalist M M Kalburgi and another matched with that of those used in the Dabholkar killing. Following this, the CBI summoned the two accused, who are currently out on bail, three officers connected to their arrest and now the officials from the Mumbai FSL. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a senior FSL official told The Indian Express that ballistic report prepared through Integrated Ballistic Identification System or IBIS can give accurate reading. In case of a countrymade revolver, IBIS cannot be used, which was one of the reasons why the FSL failed to give an accurate reading in the Dabholkar murder case.
IBIS uses advanced computer-aided technology. It compares the unique identification marks made on bullets and their shells by the weapons from which they were fired. The computer images are then compared by the IBIS software. “In case of a countrymade revolver such data is not available. In the Dabholkar case, a countrymade revolver was used and therefore IBIS cannot be used,” said the official.
“When Jagtap was quizzed on his report, he claimed that it was based on the tests duly conducted by him. When confronted with the findings of Bengaluru and Gujarat FSL, Jagtap asserted that the report was based on tests performed using certain scientific principles,” said an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “However when a few other officials were quizzed, they contradicted the statement given by Jagtap. There are certain inconsistency in the procedures that Jagtap claimed to have followed to those generally adopted by the FSL as listed out by the other officials,” added the source.
“Nagori and Khandelwal were shown as accused in the case. Sooner or later we have to file a report on their roles. We are now certain that they have no role to play and that the murder was a handiwork of the Sanatan Sanstha,” added the official. In June 2016, the CBI arrested Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) western commander Virendra Tawde in connection with the murder of Dabholkar. In a chargesheet filed subsequently, the agency claimed Dabholkar was murdered by members of the right-wing outfit Sanatan Sanstha. Two of its members, Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar, are shown as wanted accused in the case.