Recovery of suspected weapon used in Dabholkar murder: Prosecution, defence lawyers hope trial will begin soon

Narendra Dabholkar, Dabholkar murder case, Narendra Dabholkar murder case, Narendra Dabholkar murder, India news, Indian Express

In 2018, the agency named Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar as the two shooters, who allegedly opened fire at Dabholkar on the morning of August 20 in 2013, and arrested them. (File Photo)

IN the light of the recovery a pistol from a creek near Thane suspectedly dumped by one of the accused in the Narendra Dabholkar murder case, both prosecution and defence lawyers are hopeful that the trial in the case should commence soon.

The CBI has said it recently recovered a pistol from a creek of the Arabian Sea near Thane following a search for four weapons suspected to have been dismantled and dumped in July 2018 by the alleged shooter in the 2013 murder case, Sharad Kalaskar. The agency has sent the recovered weapon, which is the rusted main body of a country-made pistol, for forensic and ballistic analysis to ascertain whether it was linked to the murder, officials said.

The CBI had made the first arrest in June 2016 by apprehending Sanatan Santha member Dr Virendra Tawade, an ENT surgeon and alleged mastermind of the conspiracy. In 2018, the agency named Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar as the two shooters, who allegedly opened fire at Dabholkar on the morning of August 20 in 2013, and arrested them. In May last year, Mumbai-based Sanatan Sanstha lawyer Sanjeev Punalekar and his aide Vikram Bhave were arrested. The CBI has said that Kalaskar, who is also an accused in the murder case of Bengaluru journalist Gauri Lankesh, was advised by Punalekar on how to dismantle and get rid of the firearms. Following a meeting with Punalekar at his Mumbai office, Kalaskar dismantled and dumped four pistols, also including the one used to kill Lankesh, in the creek on July 7, 2018, the investigating agency claimed.

The CBI has till now filed three chargesheets in the case -- first against Tawade in September 2016, second against Andure and Kalaskar in February 2019 and third against Punalekar and Bhave in November 2019. The court in Pune, which has been hearing the case, is now slated to frame charges against the chargesheeted accused, after which the trial in the case will begin. In December 2016, the CBI had approached the Bombay High Court, which had passed an order not to go ahead with the trial, till the further orders.

Defence lawyer in case Adv Virendra Ichalkaranjikar said, "Towards the end of 2016, the CBI had come up with a reason that they wanted to send the ballistic evidences to Scotland Yard for analysis and needed time. The CBI was then granted time and the trial was put on hold. Since then the CBI has been stalling the commencement of trial one or the other way. The accused in the case have been denied their right for trial over and over again. Now, as the reports suggest that there has been a recovery of a weapon, we hope that the trial in the case begins as soon as possible."

Special Public Prosecutor in the case Adv Prakash Suryavanshi said, "We too expect the trial to start soon. There was a High Court order in place. But now in the light of the recovery of the suspected weapon, we hope the trial to begin soon. A hearing of the High Court is scheduled toward March end. We are expecting a development there."

The rusted body of a country-made pistol has been recovered from the creek with help of expert divers and special equipment. It is going to be examined and is likely that the said object is one of the four firearms allegedly dismantled and disposed by Kalaskar. A Special Investigation Team of the state CID is currently probing the February 2015 murder of veteran Communist leader Govind Pansare. The Karnataka Police on the other hand is probing the August 2015 murder of Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi and September 2017 murder of Gauri Lankesh. All the agencies have said in the past that these murders are closely linked with each other and have many common suspects involved. Investigators have not ruled out the use of same firearms in more than one of these cases.