The Bombay High Court on Thursday expressed displeasure over the delay in commencement of trial in the murder cases of Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare. It directed the probe agencies to inform the high court in a month’s time as to when the criminal trial in the cases would begin.
Dabholkar, a rationalist, was shot dead in Pune on August 20, 2013, while Pansare was shot on February 16, 2015, near his house in Kolhapur in western Maharashtra. He died four days later. The Central Bureau of Investigation is investigating the Dabholkar case, earlier probed by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) before being handed over to the CBI. The state Criminal Investigation Department (CID) is probing the Pansare case.
In the Dabholkar case, all the accused have been arrested but the weapon used in the crime is yet to be recovered. Four country-made pistols were allegedly dismantled and thrown by the accused in a creek in Thane district. In the Pansare case, the main conspirators have been arrested and efforts are on to nab the assailants.
A division bench of Justices S C Dharmadhikari and R I Chagla has been hearing over five year-old pleas filed by the kin of the deceased, Dabholkar’s daughter Mukta and Pansare’s daughter Smita, seeking investigation monitored by the high court.
On Thursday, the bench said, “There should not be a failure in delivery of justice. It has been seven years since Dabholkar was shot dead and five years since Pansare was killed.”
The high court noted that the probe agencies were still carrying out investigations with regard to the absconding accused in the Pansare case and recovery of weapon in the Dabholkar case. “The trial should commence at the earliest against those arrested,” the bench said.
The high court added, “Credibility of the criminal justice delivery system is at stake. People should not lose complete faith in the system… It would not be proper to delay the commencement of trial.”
Justice Dharmadhikari also said there should be some certainty about the trial as both the victims and their families, and arrested accused have fundamental rights. “Today, the arrested accused persons may also raise questions about their rights. There is always a presumption of innocence and, until held guilty, no one can be kept behind bars indefinitely,” he said.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, representing the CBI, informed the bench that the search for the murder weapon would be completed in a month, whereas advocate Ashok Mundargi for the CID submitted that the agency was on the lookout for the absconding accused. The bench posted further hearing to March 24.
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