As police probe the murder of communist leader Govind Pansare in Kolhapur, the special public prosecutor told a local court Wednesday that suspect Sameer Gaikwad of Sanatan Sanstha was in Thane during the period the murder was committed. But the court was also told that transcripts of Gaikwad’s phone conversations with sister Anjali and friend Jyoti Kamble in Mumbai pointed to his involvement in the murder conspiracy.
Police claim that one of the 31 SIM cards recovered from Gaikwad was active in Kolhapur on the day of the murder. Pansare was shot at in Kolhapur on February 16 and died in a Mumbai hospital later.
The special investigation team (SIT) of the Maharashtra Police arrested Gaikwad in connection with the murder case on September 16, based on “electronic surveillance” of his phone calls for the last few months. The police said he often spoke about Pansare’s murder to his family and friends.
On Wednesday, a police team produced Gaikwad before a magistrate court in Kolhapur, seeking seven days’ extension in his custody. The Kolhapur Bar Association had decided that none of its members would defend Gaikwad but a battery of lawyers associated with Sanatan Sanstha from different parts of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka reached the court.
As many as 31 lawyers, including Sanatan Sanstha’s legal head Sanjiv Punalekar and deputy president of Sangli Bar Association M M Suhase, appeared for him Wednesday.
Special public prosecutor Chandrakant Budhle said they wanted to probe the 31 SIM cards and 23 cellphones recovered from him to know when and for what purpose were so many cellphones and SIM cards used, who all did he contact and from which places.
Budhle said Gaikwad was in Thane during the period the murder took place, but transcripts of his telephone conversations suggested his involvement in the conspiracy. The transcripts were submitted to the court.
The prosecutor also mentioned that the “voice layer analysis” report by experts form Gujarat was awaited.
Gaikwad is linked to Rudra Patil of Sangli, a Sanatan Sanstha activist who is absconding in the Madgaon bomb blast case of Goa. Police suspect that Rudra had been in contact with Gaikwad until recently. A search is on for Rudra but he has not yet been named as an accused in the Pansare murder case. Defence counsel Punalekar claimed that report of a psychological test conducted on Gaikwad had revealed that he had a habit of boasting and mongering.
“We believe Gaikwad went on talking about Pansare casually over phone. Now the police say that Gaikwad was in Thane. So, he is clearly not involved in the murder. There is nothing special about recovering 23 cell phones from Gaikwad, who ran a mobile phone repairs shop. Cops say Gaikwad is linked to Rudra. Then why did the cops, who had been keeping a watch on Gaikwad for the last few months, not arrest Rudra? The allegations are wrong,” Punalekar said.
Judicial Magistrate (First Class) Aparna Jainapure remanded Gaikwad in police custody until September 26.
Meanwhile, the Karnataka Police team probing the murder of Kannada scholar M M Kalbhurgi in Dharwad and a CBI team probing the murder of Dr Narendra Dabholkar in Pune are also stationed in Kolhapur.
Police said they wanted to question Gaikwad as striking similarities were observed in the Pansare, Dabholkar and Kalburgi murder cases.
Pansare’s daughter Smita told mediapersons, “We hope the police are able to arrest the masterminds.” Her husband Bansi said, “There is nothing illegal in 31 lawyers appearing for Gaikwad. But it is an attempt to give a message that ‘do whatever you want, we are here to support you’.”
After the arguments, Gaikwad’s lawyers posed for a group photo in the court, in an apparent bid to put up a show of strength. Punalekar, however, denied this.
He said, “This is not for show of strength. Lawyers from different parts of state and also from Goa and Karnataka have willingly come today as they believe Gaikwad is innocent.”