Short of manpower, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which took over the probe into the murder of Narendra Dabholkar last year, had sought more officers from the state police to help in the investigation. But an indifferent Maharashtra government dragged its feet over the request of the agency. The CBI is facing similar hurdles in its probe into the murder of RTI activist Satish Shetty.
A team from the Special Crime Unit of CBI took over the probe in April, but the state government is yet to respond to its demands on infrastructure and manpower assistance.
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In February this year, the CBI had reopened the probe into the murder of Shetty, months after it had filed a closure report after stating that it found no “prosecutable evidence”. Shetty, on a morning walk, was stabbed to death on January 13, 2010, not far from his Panchvati Colony home in Talegaon Dabhade. Shetty was Pune district coordinator of the Bhrastachar Virodhi Dakshata Samiti, an organisation fighting corruption.
Shetty had exposed an alleged land scam along the Pune-Mumbai Highway, one of several cases of corruption he had exposed through RTI applications. Based on Shetty’s findings and complaint, a criminal offence in the land scam was lodged with the Lonavla town police station against the Chairman and Managing Director of IRB Infrastructure Company, Virendra Mhaiskar, and 12 others, including some government officials, on October 15, 2009. In the last week of November 2009, Shetty filed an application with the rural police seeking protection, alleging he had received threats.
After the Pune rural police failed to crack the case and allegations of lapses, the case was transferred to the CBI. Weeks before the CBI closed the case in August 2014, it had sought permission to reopen the case, saying it was linked to the murder.
Shetty’s brother, Sandeep, who has been fighting the legal battle, said, “It is over four months since the CBI team of the Special Crime Unit from Delhi took over the investigation. I have been told that they have been asking for more infrastructure, vehicles and manpower for the investigation. They are currently stationed in a resthouse and are operating from there. It shows the apathy of the state government towards the case. This is, no doubt, delaying the probe.”
Senior officers from the investigating team refused to comment on the issue. However, an officer from Pune CBI said on condition of anonymity, “It is true that the Delhi CBI team has been asking for assistance and infrastructure since April and they have sent several letters to the state government, reminding them of the need. But in this time period, they have been doing as much as they can and some statements have been recorded.”
The response of the state government to requests of the CBI in the Dabholkar murder case was no different. Dabholkar’s son Hamid had said the CBI was short of manpower and the agency had asked for six police officers from the state police. Despite reminders from the CBI, the government had not given any police officer or extended assistance to the CBI.
Dabholkar’s family members had even met Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on July 20 on this issue but, even a month later, the government did nothing. The family had blamed the government for going slow and not taking the murder probe seriously. The government finally extended help after an uproar in the media. The CBI had said they were “actively investigating” the case despite a manpower shortage.
Dabholkar, a rationalist who spearheaded an anti-superstition movement in Maharashtra, was shot dead in Pune on August 20, 2013, while out on a morning walk. As the police could not arrest the culprits, the Bombay High Court handed over the investigation to the CBI in May 2014.