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Unsung Heroes | B C Ravindra, forensic expert who provided invaluable leads in cases such as Kalburgi murder

While ballistics is his area of expertise, Ravindra is also considered an expert crime-scene investigator, having spent hundreds of hours analysing crime scenes across Karnataka over the years – including bomb blast sites.

B C Ravindra

With no concrete leads in hand on the killing of well-known writer M M Kalburgi, 77, outside his home at Dharwad on the morning of August 30, 2015 by an unidentified gunman, officers at the Criminal Investigation Department of the Karnataka police decided a new course of action a month later.

Going by the modus operandi in the murder including the use of a 7.65mm countrymade gun, the CID decided to take a closer look at evidence found in two similar murders that occurred in 2013 and 2015 in Maharashtra – where rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, 69, was shot dead on August 20, 2013, in Pune, and Leftist thinker Govind Pansare, 81, on February 16, 2015 in Kolhapur.

Investigations in Maharashtra had made some headway but the perpetrators of the murders were not found.

On September 22, 2015 a judicial magistrate’s court in Karnataka approved a CID request to collect cartridges and bullets found at the crime scenes of the two murders in Maharashtra.

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Over the next few weeks ballistic evidence from the Maharashtra murders arrived at the Karnataka State Forensic Science Laboratory in Bengaluru and a deputy director in the ballistics unit of the lab, B C Ravindra, began comparing evidence from the Kalburgi murder with that from the Maharashtra murders.

Ravindra, a veteran of crime-scene and ballistic investigations who retired in 2017, burnt the midnight oil poring over the markings on the bullets and cartridges from the three crimes under stereo and comparison microscopes at the forensic science unit.

The comparisons were being done to see if there were similarities in the characteristic marks of gun firing pins on the cartridge cases recovered from the different crime scenes and the pattern of micro-striation lines on the bullets recovered from the bodies of the victims and crime scene in the murders.

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Guns are known to leave unique markings on cartridges and bullets – when the cartridge is struck by the firing pin and the bullet travels through the barrel of the gun – on the lines of human fingerprints.

Ballistic fingerprinting has helped solve many a case around the world, and as deputy director at the ballistics unit of the lab, Ravindra had already cracked a few himself for the Karnataka police before the evidence from the Kalburgi, Dabholkar and Pansare murders landed at the lab.

Around 45 days after the Kalburgi murder, the CID received its first major lead in the case – a ballistics report from the forensic lab that said three cartridges found at the Pansare shooting scene in Kolhapur and two cartridges found at the Kalburgi shooting site were fired from the same gun.

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It also said that one bullet in the Pansare case and two in the Kalburgi case were fired from one gun.

Around two months after the Kalburgi murder, the CID got another big lead in the case – comparison of ballistic evidence from the Dabholkar murder with that from the Kalburgi murder cartridges and bullets had not thrown up a match, but a similar comparison of evidence between the Dabholkar and Pansare murder cases revealed that two cartridge cases found in the Pune murder had the same markings as two cartridge cases in the Kolhapur murder.

The findings from Ravindra’s analysis had revealed that the three murders were inter-linked – the Kalburgi and Pansare murders were linked by one gun and the Pansare and Dabholkar murders were linked by a second gun – suggesting that one gang using two 7.65mm countrymade guns was behind all the three murders. Despite the big leads, the three murder investigations remained inconclusive and open-ended for nearly two years.

In September 2017, shortly after Ravindra retired from the forensic lab, the leads he had provided in 2015 came into play again when journalist Gauri Lankesh, 55, was shot dead outside her home in Bengaluru. A special investigation team (SIT) of the Bengaluru police sought opinion on the ballistic evidence from the crime scene and its comparison with the unsolved murders involving similar modus operandi and 7.65 mm countrymade guns. The ballistic evidence once again provided a breakthrough – Gauri was killed with the same gun that was used on Kalburgi.

A massive investigation carried out by the SIT with the help of the CBI and the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad eventually led to arrests in 2018 of over 20 members of a secretive, organised right-wing crime syndicate linked to fringe Hindutva groups such as the Sanatan Sanstha which were identifying and killing progressive thinkers and rationalists after labeling them “anti-Hindu”.

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One of the unsung heroes of the investigations that cracked the four murder across two states, B C Ravindra, is a B Sc degree holder from a Bengaluru college and has a diploma in forensic ballistics from Delhi. He was the go-to man for the Karnataka police for several years until his retirement. His opinion is still sought in tricky criminal cases and he is a teacher for police trainees.

At the end of March this year, a sessions court in Belagavi convicted gangster Bannanje Raja for the murder of a businessman R N Nayak in the coastal town of Karwar in December 2013. Among the key evidence in the case was a ballistic report showing the bullets fired to kill the businessman had been  fired from a gun that was seized near the scene of crime. A hand swab collected by the ballistic expert of the main shooter who was shot dead near the crime scene by Nayak’s bodyguard also revealed that the dead man had been firing a gun during the crime.

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In 2003, soon after H Nagappa, whom forest brigand Veerappan had kidnapped, was found shot dead in the forests bordering Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the Karnataka police turned to Ravindra to ascertain who killed the Janata Dal politician.

The forensic expert analysed 164 guns that were being used by the Karnataka special task force (STF) to find out if the bullet that killed the politician was fired by the police in a failed attempt to rescue Nagappa from Veerappan’s custody. The exercise remained inconclusive after the Tamil Nadu STF, which was also patrolling the forests, did not provide their weapons for forensic analysis.

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While ballistics is his area of expertise, Ravindra is also considered an expert crime-scene investigator, having spent hundreds of hours analysing crime scenes across Karnataka over the years – including bomb blast sites. “While I have a diploma in forensic ballistics, there have been hours and hours spent reading scientific reports on crime scenes to learn to analyse them. A lot of learning has also come from the experience of analysing crime scenes and bodies of victims,” Ravindra said.

In several controversial deaths – such as the suicides of D K Ravi and M K Ganapathy – the police turned to Ravindra for early leads on the nature of the deaths.

“I traveled around the state 24×7. I went anywhere I was called to carry out analysis, at any hour of the day. Many forensic doctors who conducted postmortems were wary of my opinions because I would find contradictions,” said the forensic expert who served the Karnataka police for over 30 years.

The high point of Ravindra’s service was a chief minister’s medal for meritorious service that he received many years ago. “The satisfaction I have is that I helped solve cases all over Karnataka,” he said.

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First published on: 25-06-2022 at 03:50:24 pm
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