The Bombay High Court on Friday transferred the probe into the murder of anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar to the CBI, despite the agency expressing reluctance to take the case up. The HC’s decision is considered as a major embarrassment for the state government, which had claimed that police had got leads into the case.
The HC ruling came on a PIL filed by former journalist Ketan Tirodkar, who had prayed to transfer the investigation to the CBI. Dabholkar’s daughter Mukta had sought to form a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the case. Two unknown bike borne assailants had shot dead Dabholkar on August 20 in Pune, while he was out for a morning walk.
The CBI’s lawyer Rebecca Gonsalvis argued that there was no need to transfer the case as the petitioner, Tirodkar, had not raised doubt over the state police’s investigation.
Tirodkar in his counter argument stated that even if there was no question over the police’s role, investigation into a criminal case could be transferred to the CBI if it had national or international ramifications. Justice P V Hardas upheld Tirodkar’s argument.
The State Home Department had formed 20 police teams to find out Dabholkar’s killers. Pune Police had arrested arms dealer Manish Nagori and his accomplice Vilas Khandelwal in January, on a charge that they were actively involved in the killing. Both of them were lodged in Thane jail at the time, in connection with a case pertaining to possessing and selling arms illegally. However, a Pune court released them on bail in April because the police could not file a chargesheet in the stipulated period of 90 days.
This is the second high profile murder case in recent times in which the court has roped in the CBI against the state government’s wish. Earlier, the HC had handed over the probe into politician Pawanraje Nimbalkar’s murder to the CBI. Nimbalkar’s brother and NCP MP Padmasinh Patil is the main accused in the case.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had indicated that right-wing fundamentalists could be responsible for Dabholkar’s murder.
Dabholkar’s colleague at the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti, an organisation which works for eradication of superstition, Shyam Manav had named Jayant Athawale, chief of right-wing organisation Sanatan Sanstha, as the mastermind behind the killing. The police had focused their investigation on this organisation, but could not found any substance in the allegations.