Dabholkar murder case: State gives nod to prosecute Punalekar, Bhave and Tawade under UAPA

Dabholkar murder case: In five years, five arrested, but contradiction haunts investigation

Narendra Dabholkar was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen at V R Shinde Bridge in Pune on August 20, 2013.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is investigating the murder of anti-superstition activist Dr Narendra Dabholkar, on Thursday submitted documents before a special court in Pune regarding the nod given by the state government to prosecute three accused — lawyer Sanjiv Punalekar, Virendra Tawade and Vikram Bhave — under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

“In November 2018, UAPA sections were invoked against accused Sharad Kalaskar and Sachin Andure in this case. Subsequently, UAPA sections were also invoked against three more chargesheeted accused, Punalekar, Tawade and Bhave. But as per procedure, to prosecute the accused under UAPA, prosecution requires approval from state government. We have got the approval and documents pertaining to it were today submitted before Special Judge S R Navandar,” said Special Public Prosecutor Prakash Suryawanshi.

According to the CBI, Andure and Kalaskar were the two assailants who had shot Dabholkar dead on August 20, 2013, on the V R Shinde bridge near Omkareshwar temple in Pune. Both of them were arrested in August 2018. Kalaskar is also an accused in the Gauri Lankesh murder case.

Bhave and Punalekar were arrested by the CBI in May 2019, on the basis of a statement purportedly given by Kalaskar to the SIT investigating Lankesh’s murder.

According to the CBI, Kalaskar had visited the chamber of Punalekar in Mumbai, where his assistant Vikram Bhave was also present. Kalaskar allegedly told Punalekar about his role in Dabholkar’s murder, following which the lawyer asked him to destroy the firearms used in murder cases, including the murder of Lankesh. Later, Kalaskar allegedly dismantled four country-made pistols and threw the parts in the Thane creek.

Punalekar was granted bail in July last year while Bhave’s bail application was rejected recently by the special court in Pune. Bhave, who is in judicial custody in Yerawada central jail, was convicted in the 2008 Thane auditorium blast case, but was later released on bail. He had allegedly helped the assailants identify Dabholkar at the spot on the day of the murder. Virendra Tawde, an ENT surgeon and member of Sanatan Sanstha, was arrested in June 2016. The CBI has accused him of being the mastermind of the conspiracy to kill Dabholkar.