Updated: September 4, 2021 7:31:37 am
The arguments over framing of charges against the five accused arrested in connection with the 2013 murder of rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar started before a special court in Pune on Friday.
During the proceedings, Central Bureau of Investigation’s lawyer Prakash Suryawanshi argued that the accused have committed an act of terrorism and sought an order from Special Judge S R Nawandar for framing of charges against them under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Arms Act and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
Dabholkar was shot dead by two men while he was on a morning walk on the V R Shinde bridge near Omkareshwar temple in Pune, on August 20, 2013.
The CBI, which took over the probe from Pune City Police in 2014, has till now chargesheeted five accused, all of them allegedly linked to the radical outfit 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, who have been arrested at different times between 2016 and 2019. Of these, Tawade, Andure and Kalaskar are currently in jail while Punalekar and Bhave are out on bail.
Arguing over framing of charges against them, Suryawanshi relied on a statement given by a witness, Sanjay Sadwilkar of Kolhapur, which had led to the arrest of Tawade initially in connection with the murder of Communist leader Govind Pansare in Kolhapur on February 20, 2015. The CBI had arrested Tawade in 2016 in the Dabholkar murder case and termed him the mastermind behind the murder conspiracy.
The CBI lawyer also cited forensic reports against the accused, and a sketch in the Sanatan Sanstha mouthpiece ‘Sanatan Prabhat’ published on August 18, 2013, two days before Dabholkar’s murder. The sketch depicted Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS), an anti-superstition outfit founded by Dabholkar, as a demon being slayed.
However, defence lawyer Virendra Ichalkaranjikar opposed the prosecution’s plea by pointing out the various alleged contradictions in the Dabholkar murder investigation.
In its chargesheet against Tawade in September 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 had arrested Andure and Kalaskar and named them as the shooters.
The CBI also told the court on Friday that it was not relying on a report from the Forensic Science Laboratory, Gujarat, which it had filed in the Bombay High Court in January 2017. During the last hearing, the prosecution had sought this report from the CBI before arguments on framing of charges began. The next hearing in the case will take place on September 7.
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