The defence counsel for lawyer Sanjeev Punalekar and his aide Vikram Bhave, who were arrested in connection with rationalist and author Narendra Dabholkar’s murder case, Tuesday told the court that the case presented by the CBI on the alleged shooters and the weapons used by them had several discrepancies.
Advocate Virendra Ichalkaranjikar said: “The investigators have told the court that the pistols used in the murders of Dr Dabholkar, Govin Pansare and MM Kalburgi are same. The CBI is also saying they are still looking for the pistol purportedly disposed by one of the shooters on the alleged advice of Punalekar.
It also needs to be pointed out, before the CBI had taken over the case, the police had arrested two persons — Manish Nagori and Vikas Khandelwal — and had said that the pistol recovered from them was used in the murder of Dabholkar.”
He added that there was also a contradiction in the CBI’s claims on who the shooters were. “In 2016, the CBI said Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar were the shooters. In 2018, it said Sharad Kalaskar and Sachin Andure were the shooters. The investigation is nothing but a series of contradictions and discrepancies,” he said.
Arguing for the bail of Punalekar (53) and Bhave (34), who were arrested by the CBI on May 25 and were remanded to the judicial custody on June 4, Ichalkaranjikar sited several Supreme Court judgments. The court of Additional Sessions Judge Ravindra M Pande is hearing the bail applications.
After their arrests, the CBI had claimed that Punalekar was not only a part of the overall murder conspiracy, but had also instructed the alleged shooter, Sharad Kalaskar, to dismantle a set of firearms, including the one used in the murder of Gauri Lankesh.
The agency had also claimed that Bhave, a Sanatan Sanstha member, had helped the alleged shooters of Dabholkar in doing recce of the area were the incident took place. Bhave, the CBI claimed, also told them about the escape routes after the execution of the crime.
Punalekar, an office-bearer of the Hindu Vidhidnya Parishad (HVP), has been legally representing several Sanatan Sanstha members and other Hindutva activists accused in many other cases. He had not only appeared for some of the accused in Dabholkar’s murder, but had also been seen and quoted in the media.
Bhave, a Sanatan Sanstha member, is a convict in the 2008 Thane blast case and was later released on bail by the Bombay High Court in 2013. Bhave had been assisting Punalekar in his legal work, sources said.