After being pulled up during the last hearing for delaying investigations in the cases pertaining to the murders of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar (2013) and activist and CPI leader Govind Pansare (2015), the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Special Investigation Team (SIT) of state police on Tuesday informed the Bombay High Court that they were agreeable to commencement of trial in both the cases even though investigation was still under way.
The agencies also informed the court that they had withdrawn the application that sought a stay on commencement of the trial.
Dabholkar was shot dead in Pune on August 20, 2013, while Pansare was shot on February 16, 2015, near his house in Kolhapur in western Maharashtra. He died four days later. The CBI is investigating the Dabholkar case while the state SIT is probing the Pansare case.
A division bench of Justice S S Shinde and Justice Manish Pitale, which has been hearing pleas by Smita Pansare and Mukta Dabholkar, the kin of the late activists, had on March 12 asked the investigating agencies to file an investigation progress report by the next hearing on March 30.
The family members of the activists through advocate Abhay Nevagi had sought a court-monitored probe. They had said that it has been nearly eight and five years since the two activists had been murdered, but the agencies had not been able to catch the conspirators nor conclude the probe and begin the trial.
The bench was told by the petitioners that investigators in Karnataka had managed to nab the assailants in the murder of activists M M Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh, who were killed in 2015 and 2017, respectively, and been able to file chargesheet and the trials had begun. The HC was informed that while CBI had filed three chargesheets in the Dabholkar murder case, the SIT had made no progress in the Pansare case.
On Tuesday, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh for the CBI submitted an investigation progress report in a sealed cover and said that the trial had not started in Karnataka. Moreover, Singh said the agency has withdrawn a plea seeking stay on the Dabholkar trial as probe was in progress and that the CBI is ready for trial, but at the same time it will continue the probe into the accused and conspirators.
Senior advocate Ashok Mundargi for the state SIT also submitted the investigation status report in sealed cover and informed that 10 persons have been arrested in the Pansare case while two are absconding. He referred to the report which stated that the SIT is ready for trial and the investigation is in progress in respect of two absconding accused and to find out who are involved in the conspiracy to kill Pansare.
After hearing submissions, the court accepted statements made by the investigating agencies and said that while the trial would commence, they will continue their investigation.
“We do not even want slightest of doubt that investigation is not properly done. We will keep on monitoring these cases. Find out what is remaining to be done and what steps have been taken by you (probe agencies). We will go to the root of the matter. We will not let any agency do this. If this is to happen in a modern state like Maharashtra, this court is certainly concerned,” Justice Shinde said.
Seeking further response on the status of the probe from the agencies, the court posted further hearing on pleas to April 15.