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Dabholkar murder case: Bombay HC grants bail to accused, says trial unlikely in ‘near future’

Bhave (37), currently lodged at the Yerwada Central Jail in Pune, will be released after submitting a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh and sureties.

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
Updated: May 7, 2021 4:53:02 am
At a press conference in Pune, Dabholkar’s son Hamid and other MANS activists alleged that the probe in the murder case, conducted by the CBI, was going at a very slow pace. Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, founder president of Maharashtra Andhashrddha Nirmoolan Samiti during an interaction at Express Office in 2011. Express File Photo by Sandeep Daundkar.

The Bombay High Court on Thursday granted bail to Vikram Bhave, one of the accused in the 2013 murder case of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar.

Bhave (37), currently lodged at the Yerwada Central Jail in Pune, will be released after submitting a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh and sureties.

The court refused to accede to CBI’s request seeking a stay on the bail order. While imposing conditions, it said that Bhave cannot leave the jurisdiction of the trial court. He will have to visit the police station and attend every proceeding during trial.

According to the CBI, Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar – also arrested in the case – had allegedly opened fire at Dabholkar on August 20, 2013, when he was on a morning walk on V R Shinde bridge near Omkareshwar temple in Pune.

Bhave is accused of helping the alleged sharpshooters in conducting a recce of the area in August 2013 – nearly 15 days before Dabholkar’s murder. On May 9, 2014, the probe was transferred to the CBI. Bhave was arrested on May 25, 2019.

According to the probe, Bhave – a convict in the 2008 Thane auditorium blast case, who was later released on bail by the HC in 2013 – had helped the assailants identify Dabholkar at the crime spot.

A division bench of Justice S S Shinde and Justice Manish Pitale passed the order while hearing two appeals filed by Bhave through advocates Subhash Jha, Ghanshyam Upadhyay, Virendra Ichalkaranjikar and Hare Krishna Mishra, challenging January and September 2020 orders of the Pune sessions court that had rejected his bail pleas.

Bhave’s lawyers submitted that the sessions court orders were “erroneous” and that the material brought on record by CBI to connect him to the murder was far-fetched, even if such material against him was to be accepted.

The bench noted that while the sessions court had passed orders on the basis that Bhave was earlier convicted for a terror offence, the same was not factual. “Therefore, the emphasis placed on this aspect by the sessions court was misplaced and only for this reason, the bail applications of the appellant could not have been rejected,” the HC said.

Moreover, the court noted that as per CBI, it is clear that further probe is being undertaken for examining the “larger conspiracy” in the matter. It observed that there is no likelihood of charges being framed and trial commencing in the case in “near future”.

“Considering the nature of allegations and extent to which the CBI would be examining witnesses in the matter, it can be reasonably concluded that the beginning of the trial and its completion would take a long time. Therefore, the prayer for grant of bail deserves to be allowed by imposing conditions,” it added.

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