Pune: The Navi-Mumbai based Special Crime Branch of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is investigating the murder case of rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar, on Sunday, said that some of the accused in the Gauri Lankesh case are connected with the Dabholkar murder case.
The agency also informed judicial magistrate HR Jadhav that one of the accused in the Lankesh case had handed over one pistol and three live cartridges to Sachin Andure, and the CBI has seized them. Also, CBI suspects that th same pistol was used to murder Dabholkar.
“We have sent the weapon to a forensic laboratory for a ballistics report. Once we get it, we will be able to confirm whether it is the same pistol or not,” said a senior officer from CBI.
Dabholkar (67), who was an anti-superstition activist and founder of Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS), had gone for a morning walk when he was shot dead by two bike-borne men over a bridge between Omkareshwar temple and Balgandharv Auditorium on August 20, 2013.
Meanwhile, Karnataka police, while investigating the Lankesh murder case, arrested some persons including a few from Maharashtra, and later informed the Anti-terrorism Squad (ATS), Mumbai, about some members of right-wing organisations, who were planning bomb blasts.
Accordingly, ATS nabbed three persons, including Sharad Kalaskar, who told the ATS about his involvement in the Dabholkar case with the help of Andure.
On August 18, Andure was arrested by the CBI after being informed by ATS. He was later produced in a Pune court and remanded to custody till August 26. After expiry of the custody, Andhure was again produced before a holiday magistrate court on Sunday at the district court in Shivajinagar.
CBI team led by SP Nandkumar Nair reached the courtroom at around 1.10 pm. Journalists were not allowed to take mobile phones inside the courtroom.
While seeking extension of custody till September 1, Additional SP and investigating officer SR Singh stated in the remand application, “During the interrogation of accused Andure, he revealed that one of the arrested accused in Gauri Lankesh case had handed over one 7.65 mm country-made pistol and three bullets to him. Andure passed them to his brother-in-law Shubham Surale in Aurangabad on August 11 this year. After Andure was arrested, Surale passed the pistol and bullets to his friend Rohit Rajendra Rege. We conducted a search at Rege’s house in Aurangabad and seized the weapon and the live bullets.”
While Gauri Lankesh (55), journalist-turned-activist was shot dead outside her residence in Bengaluru on September 5, 2017.
The agency also informed the court that they are trying to trace the motorcycle used in the crime and also take custody of another accused Kalaskar. “We have already obtained production warrant from Pune court to get custody of Kalaskar, who is in custody of Maharashtra ATS till August 28. Now, we need custody of Andure so that both of them can be interrogated together. In addition to this, CBI is also in process of getting police custody of other accused in Gauri Lankesh murder case (being investigated by Karnataka Police SIT). Some of the accused in Gauri Lankesh case are also connected with Dabholkar murder case,” CBI application further states.
While opposing police custody demand, defence lawyer Prakash Salsingikar argued, “The agency had earlier chargesheeted Sanatan Sanstha’s Virendra Tawde and they have stated clearly that Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar, both of them who are wanted, had shot Dabholkar. Before that, they had arrested Manish Nagori and Vikas Khandelwal and now, CBI is saying that Andhure is involved. It means the earlier investigation by the agency was wrong.”
After hearing both sides, the magistrate extended Andhure’s custody till August 30.
A CBI officer told Sakal Times, “Based on eyewitnesses account, sketches of the assailants were prepared and based on the resemblance of the sketches and photos of Akolkar and Pawar, they were named in Tawde’s charge sheet. And we have not filed a charge sheet against Akolkar and Pawar.”
The defence lawyer also alleged that he was not allowed to meet Andhure even after the order of the court and alleged that it was contempt of court. The magistrate has ordered the CBI to allow the defence lawyer to meet Andure for 15 minutes and he has to give intimation in advance.
Earlier, the agency informed the court that Andure’s brother was allowed to meet him in custody. However, when the defence lawyer asked Andure, he denied the meeting.
Mastermind still unknown
CBI officials said that Kalaskar and Andure had done a recce of the places where Dabholkar went for the morning walk. A person, who is yet to be named by the CBI, had helped them in the recce. The duo had come from Aurangabad on the same morning and shot dead Dabholkar at around 7.20 am. They had got local support for motorcycle and weapon.
Andure’s relative ties Rakhi
Andhure’s sister had sent Rakhi for him. As she could not come, another relative tied the Rakhi in the courtroom, after taking permission from the magistrate.