The CBI has invoked sections relating to terror charges under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, or UAPA, against the accused in the killing of rationalist and anti-superstition activist Dr Narendra Dabholkar in 2013.
In a report submitted to a Pune court Monday, the CBI invoked the UAPA’s Section 15, which defines a “terrorist act”, and Section 16, which states that if the “act” results in death, the punishment is either the death sentence or life imprisonment. The report was submitted by the case’s investigating officer, ASP S R Singh, in the court of Judicial Magistrate (First Class), S M A Sayyed.
The stipulated time period for filing a chargesheet in UAPA cases is 90 days after the date of arrest, after which the investigating agency can seek a 90-day
extension. The CBI, which was earlier slated to file a chargesheet on November 18, has moved an application in court for the extension, sources said. So far, the agency has arrested six persons in the case, five of them in August and September this year. In June 2016, the CBI had arrested ENT surgeon and Sanatan Sanstha member Dr Virendra Tawde, the alleged mastermind of the conspiracy to kill Dabholkar.
The CBI told the court that the five arrested this year have links to either the Sanatan Sanstha or its affiliate Hindu Janajagruti Samiti. Among those arrested are Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar who, the CBI claimed, opened fire at Dabholkar on August 20, 2013, when he was on a morning walk in Pune.
The CBI also took custody of three others — Amol Kale, Amit Digwekar and Rajesh Bangera — who are also accused in the murder of Bengaluru-based journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh in September 2017. The investigators have claimed that Kale was a key conspirator in the Dabholkar case while Bangera allegedly gave firearms training to Andure and Kalaskar.
According to CBI sources, the UAPA application claims that the Dabholkar murder was also linked to the killings in 2015 of Kannada scholar M M Kalburgi in Dharwad and Leftist thinker Govind Pansare in Kolhapur.
“Since they (victims) defied their (accused) ideology, customs and beliefs, they were eliminated. This is nothing but an a terrorist act. They had struck terror in the society and even ransacked the protests organised by the victims…the accused had a criminal intention,” a CBI official said, quoting from the application.
In the Dabholkar case, however, the chargesheet filed by the CBI against Tawde in September 2016 detailed the contents of his alleged email conversations with Sarang Akolkar, another member of the Sanatan Sanstha who is wanted in the Goa bomb blast case of 2009. In that chargesheet, the CBI had indicated that Akolkar and another suspect, Vinay Pawar, had allegedly shot Dabholkar.
The two different pointers to the identity of the shooters is now being used as a defence by the lawyers of Andure and Kalaskar. Pawar, who hails from Satara, is missing since 2009 and Akolkar, an engineer from Pune, is absconding with a red-corner notice issued against him.
Dharmaraj Chandel, the lawyer representing the five arrested in the Dabholkar case this year, said the UAPA “is not applicable”.
“The investigating agency is trying to buy time as the law has the provision to extend the 90-day time limit. The CBI has found nothing that will support their theory. The contradiction between the CBI’s two claims, about Akolkar-Pawar and Andure-Kalaskar, is still unanswered. We are sure that the agency’s claims will be proved wrong during the trial,” Chandel said.