With two forensic reports contradicting claims made by the Kalina Forensic Sciences Laboratory (FSL), the CBI is now investigating whether the initial arrests made in the Narendra Dabholkar murder case were correct, and has recorded statements of the city laboratory staff in this regard. Hours after Dabholkar was killed, Pune Police arrested two dealers of country-made weapons and seized a pistol believed to be the murder weapon. Later, reports by the Bengaluru and Gujarat FSL teams discovered that of the two weapons used in the 2015 killing of Communist Party of India leader Govind Pansare, one had a cartridge that was a forensic match with not only the weapon used in the 2015 killing of MM Kalburgi, but also the killing of Dabholkar.
In December 2013, the Maharashta ATS picked up the two arms dealers — Vikas Khandelwal and Manish Nagori — for the murder of Dabholkar in August that year, reportedly along with the murder weapon. The duo was handed over to the Pune police, which was probing the case.The men were said to have travelled from Mumbra to Pune, where they reportedly supplied the murder weapon and also recovered it from the shooters.
The central agency, which took over the investigation of the murder case in 2014, recently recorded the statements of three Mumbai FSL employees. According to sources, the FSL experts were questioned on the samples sent by the Maharashtra Police, the procedures followed while testing them and the observations made.
Earlier this year, the CBI recorded Khandelwal’s statement and confronted him with two former Maharashtra ATS officers and a former senior police inspector of the Anti Extortion Cell (AEC) of Thane Police.
According to sources, the former ATS officers told the CBI that the Mumbai FSL had confirmed that the weapon recovered from the duo was the one used to kill Dabholkar. Khandelwal reportedly told the CBI that the case registered by the ATS was fake and that during interrogation, he and his accomplice were forced to confess to a role in the killing.
The duo had been found with a weapon by the Thane AEC. While Dabholkar was killed at 7.30 am on August 20, 2013, the two men were found in Navi Mumbai around 11 am. The weapon seized from them was sent to the Kalina FSL, which subsequently confirmed it as the murder weapon.
Last year, the CBI arrested Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) western commander Virendra Tawde in connection with Dabholkar’s murder. In its chargesheet filed subsequently, the agency had claimed that Dabholkar was murdered by members of Hindutva outfit Sanatan Sanstha over ideological differences. Two of its members, Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar, are shown as wanted accused in the case.
In 2015, the Bengaluru FSL analysed the seized bullets, and its report contradicted the Mumbai FSL’s findings. The Bengaluru FSL report said that of the bullets and cartridges recovered in the Pansare murder case, one matched the Kalburgi killing and another matched the Dabholkar killing. The bullets and cartridges in the Dabholkar case did not match the revolver recovered by the Maharashtra ATS, according to the Bengaluru FSL.
The CBI then tried to send the seized material to London for a third opinion, but the London agency refused to conduct the tests. The samples were then sent to the Gujarat FSL, which confirmed the Bengaluru FSL report.
“The Maharashtra police detained the two Mumbra-based arms dealers hours after Dabholkar was gunned down in Pune. If the weapon supplied by the arms dealers was seized by the police and was in the custody of court, how could it be used in the murder of Pansare? Also, the Mumbai FSL findings are contradictory to that of the Bengaluru FSL and Gujarat FSL,” a CBI official said. “The forensic experts were quizzed over these discrepancies.”