The Central Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday sought police custody of lawyer Sanjiv Punalekar, who was arrested in Pune last month in connection with the murder of anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar. In an application submitted before Special Judge R M Pande, Special Public Prosecutor Prakash Suryawanshi said investigators have retrieved data from the mobile phone of Punalekar and the agency needed his custody for five days for further interrogation.
After defence lawyer Virendra Ichalkaranjikar said he will file his say on Thursday, Special Judge Pande said he will hear the arguments over the application filed by the CBI on Thursday afternoon. The court has also been hearing arguments over Punalekar’s bail application. Opposing bail for Punalekar, the prosecution had on Monday submitted that he had “crossed his limits as a lawyer” while allegedly advising his client, Sharad Kalaskar to dismantle the firearms used for killing Dabholkar.
Kalaskar, who is also an accused in the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh, and another accused, Sachin Andure, have been accused by the CBI of opening fire at Dabholkar on August 20, 2013, while he was on a morning walk, and killing him on the spot. Both Kalaskar and Andure are under arrest.
During Monday’s hearing, the prosecution had told the court that a lawyer can give legal advice to a client on matters such as filing an application seeking anticipatory bail, file a petition for quashing the case or surrendering before the police. But, said the prosecution, Punalekar’s alleged advice to Kalaskar on dismantling firearms used in committing the murder was not protected under the Evidence Act. The prosecution had also argued that if Punalekar was released on bail, he will tamper with the evidence.
Punalekar and his aide Vikram Bhave, a Sanatan Sanstha seeker, were arrested by the CBI on May 25. Both Punalekar and Bhave are currently lodged in Yerwada jail. Earlier this month, the court had rejected the CBI’s plea to extend the custody of Punalekar and Bhave, stating that the “ground for further police custody does not appear to be satisfactory”.
Punalekar was reportedly arrested on the basis of a statement given by Kalaskar to Karnataka Police, in which the latter claimed that the lawyer played a role in destroying the weapon used for killing Dabholkar. Bhave allegedly helped the assailants identify Dabholkar at the spot.
Defence lawyer Dharmaraj Chandel, who is representing Bhave, said the accused has not moved a bail application yet. Bhave is also a convict in a 2008 auditorium blasts case in Thane. He was released on bail by the Bombay High Court in May 2013. A book authored by him, Malegaon Sphotamagil Adrushya Hath (Invisible hands behind Malegaon blast), was released in Pune in September 2013.
Dabholkar’s daughter Mukta Dabholkar and activists of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti, an organisation founded by Dabholkar, were also present in the courtroom on Wednesday.