Sanatan Sanstha member Vikram Bhave played a key role in the conspiracy to kill rationalist Narendra Dabholkar by helping the killers conduct a reconnaissance and plan an escape route, the prosecution told a court in Pune on Tuesday.
The court was hearing the bail application of Bhave (34), who was arrested along with Mumbai-based lawyer Sanjeev Punalekar (53) by the CBI in May. Punalekar was granted bail on July 5 by the court of Additional Sessions Judge RM Pande, which is hearing the case at present.
Special Public Prosecutor Prakash Suryavanshi argued in court, “The investigation has revealed that prior to the murder of Dr Narendra Dabholkar, Bhave rode with the two alleged shooters, Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar, on a bike. He helped them conduct a reconnaissance of the area, planned an escape route after the execution, as well as the spot for abandoning the vehicle. These actions make him part of the overall conspiracy.”
Pointing out the criminal record of Bhave, Suryavanshi said, “He is a convict in a bomb blasts case and was later granted bail. After being released on bail, he has committed this crime.”
The CBI had arrested Bhave and Punalekar on the basis of a statement given by Kalaskar to Karnataka Police during the probe into the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh. Kalaskar is also an accused in the Gauri Lankesh murder case. The defence lawyers arguing for Bhave’s bail, however, questioned the delay in making the arrests, as Kalaskar had made his statement in October last year, as well as the admissibility of Kalaskar’s statement in this case. The defence also pointed out that the names of Punalekar and Bhave were not part of the supplementary chargesheet filed against Kalaskar and Sachin Andure in February this year.
According to the CBI, Kalaskar had followed Punalekar’s advice and dumped four pistols, including the one used to kill Lankesh, in Thane creek in June 2018. Dabholkar, a prominent anti-superstition activist, was shot dead in Pune on August 20, 2013. Lankesh was shot dead near her residence in Bengaluru in September 2017.
Sanatan Sanstha member and ENT surgeon Virendra Tawade, the alleged mastermind of the conspiracy, was the first accused arrested by the CBI in 2016. Two years later, the CBI named Andure and Kalaskar as the shooters who had murdered Dabholkar.