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Dabholkar murder trial: Complainant cop questioned over contradictions in statements to police and CBI

Navnath Rangat, currently an assistant police inspector with Pune Rural Police, was examined as a witness before Special Judge S R Navandar. His chief examination was conducted by CBI lawyer Prakash Suryawanshi.

Written by Chandan Haygunde | Pune |
Updated: December 5, 2021 5:58:44 pm
After the case was taken over by the CBI, the agency had called Rangat on July 4, 2014, at its office in Khadki. In its chargesheet, the agency has attached a statement bearing Rangat's name and the signature of its officer D S Chauhan. (Express Photo/file)

The police officer named as the complainant in the first information report (FIR) filed in the Narendra Dabholkar murder case was questioned by defence lawyers on Saturday over contradictions in his statements given to Pune City Police and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Navnath Rangat, currently an assistant police inspector with Pune Rural Police, was examined as a witness before Special Judge S R Navandar. His chief examination was conducted by CBI lawyer Prakash Suryawanshi.

Dabholkar, an anti-superstition activist, was shot dead by two persons on a bridge near Omkareshwar temple in Pune on August 20, 2013. At that time, Rangat was attached to the Vishrambag police station of Pune City Police as a sub-inspector. Rangat was the complainant in the FIR of the murder case filed at Deccan police station on the same day.

After the case was taken over by the CBI, the agency had called Rangat on July 4, 2014, at its office in Khadki. In its chargesheet, the agency has attached a statement bearing Rangat’s name and the signature of its officer D S Chauhan.

Defence lawyers Prakash Salsingikar, Virendra Ichalkaranjikar and Suvarna Avhad Vast cross-examined Rangat about contradictions between a statement attributed to him by the CBI and his statement attached with the FIR at Deccan police station.

According to Rangat’s statement with the FIR, he was on night patrolling duty between 9 pm on August 19, 2013 and 9 am on August 20, 2013. He was deployed near Omkareshwar temple for ‘nakabandi’ between 6 am and 9 am on August 20 to prevent chain-snatching incidents.

The statement mentions that while performing ‘nakabandi’, a tempo went towards Bal Gandharva Auditorium around 7.20 am, after which Rangat saw some persons gathered on the bridge. He went to the spot and found that “a person of age around 65 years was lying in a pool of blood”. He also saw two live and two empty cartridges at the spot. He then informed a senior officer and the police control room about the incident. Later, a team of Deccan police station reached the spot and took the body to Sassoon Hospital.

However, in the statement attributed to Rangat by the CBI, he says, “When I received information of this incident, there was no nakabandi at the bridge. The nakabandi team reached much later…”.

The statement with the Deccan police station goes on to add that while speaking to the people gathered at the crime scene, a person named “Kelkar” told Rangat that two persons on a motorcycle had opened fire and escaped towards a nearby bank.

However, there was no mention of any “Kelkar” in the CBI’s statement, which says that after completion of his night round, Rangat visited the Shaniwar Peth police chowki (near Omkareshwar bridge) around 5 am on August 20, 2013, to take some rest. Then, at around 7.20 am, Rangat called his wife from the land line of the police chowki. According to the statement, an elderly person came to the police chowki and informed Rangat about the murder on the bridge.

The FIR at Deccan police station mentions 9.30 am as time of its registration. But as per CBI’s statement, after receiving a message from a police officer, Rangat came to the Bal Gandharva police chowki around 11 am. Then, as stated further, Rangat was “interrogated” by Police Inspector Kenjale in the supervision of Joint Commissioner of Police Sanjiv Singhal at the police chowki.

After recording his statement, Rangat was allowed to go at about 2.30 pm. It further mentions that the FIR of this case was recorded as per this statement of Rangat.

Defence lawyers questioned Rangat by pointing out these contradictions to the court and claimed that he was deposing falsely. Rangat denied the allegations.

Dabholkar’s son Hamid is likely to depose as a witness during the next hearing on December 18.

The CBI, which had taken over the murder investigation from Pune City Police in 2014, has till now chargesheeted five accused, all of them allegedly linked to 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.

On September 15, 2021, the special court had framed charges against four accused — Tawade, Andure, Kalaskar and Bhave — for murder, conspiracy to commit murder along with Section 16 of the UAPA pertaining to terrorist acts and various provisions of the Arms Act for the use of firearms. The court has also charged Punalekar for destruction of evidence in the case. All five accused have pleaded not guilty tot he charges.

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