MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court on Thursday granted bail to Vikram Bhave, an accused in the case of killing of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in 2013, saying there are "not enough reasonable grounds" to conclude that the allegations against him are prima facie true.
Bhave was accused of helping two other accused - Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar - who allegedly shot Dabholkar on August 20, 2013 in Pune, with a recce of the spot and escape route after the crime.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is conducting a probe into the case.
A division bench of Justices S S Shinde and Manish Pitale in its order noted that there were discrepancies in the prosecution's evidence.
"The material on which much emphasis has been placed by the CBI to link the appellant (Bhave) with the incident in question, does not appear to indicate that the accusation levelled against the appellant can be said to be prima facie true," the court said in its order.
The HC further said the CBI is still carrying out further investigation into the case to examine the larger conspiracy and hence, there is hardly any likelihood of trial commencing in the near future.
While granting bail to Bhave, the court directed him to furnish a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh and two solvent sureties of the like amount.
It also directed him to appear before the police station concerned in Pune every day for a period of one month, followed by twice a week for two months and then once a week till the completion of the trial.
The HC also directed Bhave to attend the trial in the case and not to tamper with any evidence or witnesses.
It also directed him not to indulge in any illegal activities.
Advocate Sandesh Patil, appearing for the CBI, the prosecuting agency, sought a stay of the order.
However, the high court refused.
Bhave was arrested along with advocate Sanjeev Punalekar on May 25, 2019 by the CBI, on the basis of a statement given by Kalaskar.
Punalekar was granted bail by a sessions court in Pune in June 2019.
Bhave approached the HC earlier this year, after the sessions court in Pune rejected his bail plea.
It is the CBI's case that Punalekar had instructed Kalaskar to destroy the firearms used in the killing of Dabholkar.
According to the probe agency, Bhave (who used to work as Punalekar's assistant) had accompanied Kalaskar and Andure for a recce of the crime scene and showed them the escape route.
The accused have been charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code for criminal conspiracy, murder and destruction of evidence, and under section 16 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), pertaining to committing a terrorist act resulting in the death of a person.
Appearing for Bhave, advocates Subhash Jha, Ghanshyam Upadhyay and Hare Krishna Mishra argued that apart from the alleged statement of Kalaskar, there is no evidence against Bhave to prove his complicity in the case.
The court in its order noted that the CBI may not be justified in wholly relying upon the statement of co-accused Kalaskar made in another case (killing activist-journalist of Gauri Lankesh) wherein Bhave is not charged.