PUNE: “If any particular member of the force is negligent or responsible for such a lapse resulting in the accused absconding, then we hope and expect that the superiors would initiate disciplinary proceedings and bring the guilty officials to book,” stated the order issued by the Mumbai High Court (HC) bench comprising Justice SC Dharmadhikari and Justice Bharti Dangre.
The HC bench was hearing an appeal filed by advocate Abhay Nevagi on behalf of the Dabholkar and Pansare families against the slow-paced investigation being done by the investigating agencies in the murder cases of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare.
The order dated October 12 further states that, “If the members of police have not taken speedy action, which resulted in the accused absconding or avoiding arrests successfully for nearly eight years (Sarang Akolkar and Rudra Patil who were also accused in 2009 Goa blast), then even now the authorities must gear themselves up and firstly ensure that such officials are not assigned a responsible task of investigating serious crimes and secondly even after precious time has elapsed, due action is taken against them. If they are due for promotion or likely to be posted to sensitive and important posts, then the facet emphasised by us should be taken into consideration.”
Justice Dharmadhikari and Justice Dangre also sought an action taken report by the authorities against such officials. The order said, “It would be entirely for the superiors to then hand over important assignments and postings to such officials, who in the past have neglected their duties or were responsible for the lapses of the above nature. We would expect a report from the authorities to be placed on the record of the action taken.”
The court also wanted to know whether the arrests of purported arms dealers Manish Nagori and Vikas Khandel by the Pune Police were merely a show or farce of investigations, or it was a deliberate attempt to mislead the investigating agencies.
The court said, “When Dr Dabholkar was murdered, an attempt was made by the investigating officers (IOs), then in-charge to trace and track the accused. They arrested some persons and recovered and seized from them, arms and weapons. The arms and weapons, which were seized, were then examined and scrutinised further. The results of that were that the bullets were identified. Even the persons were identified but were subsequently let off. We would like to find out as to whether there was any deliberate act on the part of those investigating officers, who initially arrested these persons and made the recoveries and seizures, but thereafter let these individuals responsible go scot free. Whether these officials were merely making a show or farce of the investigations were allegedly a part of those who organised the commission of the crime. That is why investigating agencies were allegedly misled into arresting some persons and making these recoveries.”
The court further said that the superior in the Maharashtra police and the CBI take note of their observation and remarks. We express no opinion as to whether any intentional or deliberate act was committed and it is entirely for the enquiring authority to probe.
Nagori and Khandelwal were arrested as the suspects in the Dabholkar murder case in January 2014, only after the then state home minister RR Patil threatened to transfer the case to CBI. On the day (August 20, 2013) of Dabholkar murder, Nagori and Khandelwal were arrested by Thane police for an extortion case in Navi Mumbai.
After the arrest, they were made accused in the Prahlad Jogdundkar murder case. Jogdundkar, who was a security supervisor at the Pune University, was murdered in 2012. However, they were let off due to lack of evidence against them.
Then in January Nagori and Khandelwal were arrested by the Pune police crime branch under the supervision of the then ACP (Crime) Rajendra Bhamre. The crime branch made them suspects in Dabholkar murder case and even submitted a ballistic report in court on the basis of the weapons seized from them.
Before the high court transferred Dabholkar murder case to the CBI in May 2014, the Pune police and the Maharashtra ATS were investigating the case.
The then ACP (Crime) Rajendra Bhamre was the investigating officer (IO) of the Pune Police while the Maharashtra ATS was headed by Rakesh Maria, who later became the commissioner of police, Mumbai.
Bhamre is presently serving as the ACP, traffic branch Pune police, whereas Maria retired in January 2017.
The CBI, which was handed over the case in May 2014, was also sitting idle on the case till the high court started monitoring it in September 2015. Later, two more rationalists Dr Pansare and MM Kalburgi were shot dead in the same way as Dr Dabholkar was killed.
Pansare who was shot on February 16, 2015, outside his residence in Kolhapur succumbed to his wounds four days later, whereas Kalburgi was shot dead at his home in Dharwad.
Hameed Dabholkar, son of Dr Dabholkar, said, “It’s not only about Dabholkar, Pansare or Kalburgi cases, the court order is about all the botched-up investigations done by the investigative agencies. Any investigating officer, who does a shoddy investigation or deliberately wants to mislead, should be held responsible and should be dealt accordingly."
Megha Pansare, the daughter-in-law of Govind Pansare, said, “We welcome the order of the court. The investigating officers, who have botched up these cases, should be held accountable."
When contacted the then ACP ( Crime), Pune Police Rajendra Bhamre, who is currently working as ACP ( Traffic Branch), he denied commenting on the issue.