Updated: January 3, 2022 10:53:00 am
Defence lawyers representing the five accused in the 2013 murder case of anti-superstition activist and rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar concluded the cross-examination of his son Dr Hamid (46) on Saturday.
Hamid, a practicing psychiatrist based in Satara, had first appeared before the Special Court on December 18 as a witness and initially was examined by CBI Special Public Prosecutor Prakash Surayvanshi. In the later part of the hearing on December 18, his cross-examination by a team of defence lawyers Prakash Salsingikar, Virendra Ichalkaranjikar and Suvarna Avhad Vast commenced. The cross-examination concluded on Saturday.
The defence lawyers questioned Hamid on various issues related to Dr Narendra Dabholkar’s anti-superstition work, including exposing various people across Maharashtra who claimed to have supernatural powers, various godmen and other businesses based on superstitious beliefs. The defence lawyers also asked Hamid about the resistance faced by Dr Dabholkar and his organisation, Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS), in their effort to get an anti-superstition bill passed in the state.
The defence lawyers also asked Hamid about differences and disputes Dr Dabholkar had had with his various colleagues, other activists and organisations working for social causes. The defence also questioned Hamid about a writ petition filed by the Dabholkar family in the Bombay High Court in 2015, seeking a court-monitored probe into the case.
Referring to a news item from 2010 about the arrest of an MANS activist for alleged Naxal connection, defence lawyers asked Hamid whether allegations were made about MANS having Naxal links. Hamid said he had no idea about it. However, the court noted its observation on the line of questioning, saying the news article cited by the lawyer refers to suspected Naxal links of the activist on an individual level and not the MANS.
The court observed that it seemed like an effort to defame MANS and the witness and thus rejected the question. “In spite of requesting the learned counsel not to ask the question, it was asked. The court requests the counsel not to ask such questions to the witness again.” said the court.
The defence lawyers asked Hamid about the rallies called ‘Jawab do’ taken out by MANS and other organisations from time to time, and also expressing dissatisfaction about the probe being conducted by the CBI. Hamid replied, “After the murder of Dr Dabholkar, back-to-back incidents of murders of rationalist thinkers took place and the killers were not getting caught. There was a threat to other thinkers and activists too. Because this kind of threat was harmful to democracy, we made all possible attempts in court and on the street, under a constitutional framework, seeking justice.”
Defence counsels also questioned Hamid on why the photos of Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar were circulated by MANS as the suspected assailants in the case. Hamid replied that it was because the two were named as suspects by the CBI in its probe.
In 2016, the CBI had named absconding Sanatan Sanstha members Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar as the two assailants who shot Dabholkar dead. But in August 2018, CBI arrested Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar and named them as shooters. This contradiction in the CBI’s claim has been cited by the defence lawyers from time to time.
Dabholkar (67) was shot dead by two persons on a bridge near Omkareshwar temple in Pune city on August 20, 2013. The trial of the case is being conducted by the Special Court of Additional Sessions Judge S R Navandar.
The CBI, which took over investigation from Pune City Police in 2014, has chargesheeted five accused, all of them allegedly linked to Sanatan Sanstha. These include ENT surgeon Dr Virendrasinh Tawade, the two alleged assailants Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar, Mumbai-based lawyer Sanjeev Punalekar and his aide Vikram Bhave. Of these, Tawade, Andure and Kalaskar are currently in jail while Punalekar and Bhave are out on bail.
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