A special court in Pune on Saturday rejected the bail application filed by Vikram Bhave, an accused in the Narendra Dabholkar murder case who was arrested by the CBI in May. The order was passed by Additional Sessions Judge R M Pande. Bhave and lawyer Sanjiv Punalekar, who was also arrested in May, have been accused of playing a role in the conspiracy to kill Dabholkar and helping his killers.
Punalekar was granted bail on July 5. Bhave had subsequently applied for bail before a special court in Pune. Opposing Bhave’s bail application, CBI’s counsel Prakash Suryawanshi had argued in court, “The investigation into this case revealed that prior to the murder of Dr Narendra Dabholkar, Bhave took the two shooters, Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar, on a bike. He helped them conduct a reconnaissance of the area, plan an escape route after the execution and find a spot to abandon the vehicle. These actions make him part of the overall conspiracy.”
“The court on Saturday rejected Bhave’s bail application, believing that there is a prima-facie case against him,” Suryawanshi told The Sunday Express.
According to the CBI, accused Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar had opened fire at Dabholkar on August 20, 2013, while he was on a morning walk on the V R Shinde bridge near Omkareshwar temple in Pune.
While Punalekar was arrested on the basis of an alleged statement by Kalaskar, who said the lawyer suggested how to get rid of the weapon used to kill Dabholkar, the investigators said Bhave had helped the assailants identify Dabholkar at the spot. Bhave, a convict in the 2008 Thane auditorium blast case, was released on bail by the Bombay High Court in 2013.
In June 2016, the CBI had arrested ENT surgeon and Sanatan Sanstha member Dr Virendra Tawde, alleging that he was the mastermind of the conspiracy to kill Dabholkar. The agency, in its chargesheet against Tawde, mentioned that Sanatan Sanstha activists Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar had shot dead Dabholkar. Later, the CBI named Andure and Kalaskar as the assailants who shot the rationalist dead.
The CBI had also arrested three others – Amol Kale, Amit Digwekar and Rajesh Bangera – who are also accused in the murder of journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead near her residence in September 2017. The investigators have claimed that Kale, a resident of Pimpri-Chinchwad, was a key conspirator in the Dabholkar murder case while Bangera allegedly gave firearms training to Andure and Kalaskar.
The court, however, granted bail to all three as the CBI did not file a chargesheet against them in the stipulated period of 90 days. They, however, continue to be in jail for their alleged involvement in the Lankesh murder case.
According to the CBI, most of the accused in the case have links to either the Sanatan Sanstha or its affiliate Hindu Janajagruti Samiti.