With the CBI failing to file the chargesheet in the Narendra Dabholkar murder case within the mandatory 90-day period, a Pune court Friday granted bail to three accused, Amol Kale, Rajesh Bangera and Amit Degvekar.
Hours later, the Bombay High Court, hearing a separate plea filed by the families of Dabholkar and activist Govind Pansare, seeking court-monitored probes into both killings, asked if there were attempts on the CBI’s part to “dilute” or “slow down” its probe into Dabholkar’s killing.
The HC bench of Justices S C Dharamadhikari and Bharati Dangre posed the question after going through the progress report that the CBI submitted in a sealed cover and Abhay Nevagi, lawyer for the petitioners, told the bench that Kale, Bangera, and Degwekar were granted bail by a Pune court in the morning.
The HC bench then directed the CBI and Maharashtra CID’s Special Investigation Team, which is probing Pansare’s killing, to avoid further procedural delays in the probe and to complete their respective investigations in a time-bound manner.
Though they were granted bail in the Dabholkar murder case, Kale, Bangera and Degevekar will not be released as they were also arrested by the Karnataka police in connection with Gauri Lankesh murder case. The Kolhapur police, too, arrested Kale to probe his alleged links to the murder of Pansare. The three are currently incarcerated in Bengaluru.
The bench also noted that in previous reports submitted by the CBI, the agency had named some persons belonging to a right-wing organisation and added that action would be taken against them.
However, in the report submitted Friday, the CBI told the court that it required more “prosecutable evidence” against such persons as its previous findings against them were based merely on the statements made by the other accused.
“This leads us to ask the CBI if there is any deliberate attempt to dilute, slow down or tone down its probe against some persons,” the bench said. “Ensure that there is no dilution. Whoever the person is, he is not mightier than the law.”
The CBI, through Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, submitted that it was not trying to dilute its probe in any manner. “This is not the impression that we (CBI) wanted to give to the court. Appropriate action will be taken against all accused. We are only trying to gather adequate evidence to avoid any possible setbacks to the prosecution,” Singh told the court.
Earlier, Judicial magistrate (first class) S M A Sayyad granted the three accused in the Dabholkar case bail after advocate Dharma Raj Chandel, representing the three, had submitted bail applications. Chandel had argued that Bangera was arrested 101 days ago, while 96 days have passed since the arrest of Kale and Degvekar.
“CBI invoked the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) against the accused persons. But the CBI did not file any application seeking extension of time for filing charge sheet against the three accused. So they are eligible for bail in this case,” Chandel had said.
In court, the CBI had sought time to reply but Chandel opposed it arguing that the CBI had admitted that it was yet to file a chargesheet against the three accused.
The HC also directed the CBI and the SIT to submit their further progress reports by January 17 next year. Dabholkar was shot dead in Pune on August 20, 2013, when he was on his morning walk while Pansare was shot at on February 16, 2015, in Kolhapur and succumbed to his injuries four days later.