Pune: Two Shooters Sentenced Life Imprisonment In Rationalist Dabholkar’s Murder Case, 3 Others Acquitted

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Reported by Mubarak Ansari

Pune, 10th May 2024: A special court today delivered its verdict in the case related to the murder of renowned rationalist Narendra Dabholkar. Dabholkar, the founder of Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (MANS), was fatally shot on August 20, 2013, by two individuals riding a motorcycle near the Omkareshwar temple bridge in Shaniwar Peth.

The CBI had apprehended several suspects in connection with Dabholkar’s murder between June 2016 and September 2019, including Virendrasinh Tawde, an ENT surgeon based in Panvel; alleged gunmen Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar; as well as Vikram Bhave and Mumbai attorney Sanjeev Punalekar.

Today, the court of additional sessions judge PP Jadhav found Andure and Kalaskar guilty under section 302 (murder) of the IPC while Tawde, Punalekar and Bhave were acquitted due to lack of evidence. The court also slammed the IO for negligence while invoking UAPA charges.

Earlier CBI had identified Tawde as the “principal conspirator,” holding a significant role as the former deputy chief organizer of the Hindu Jan Jagruti Samiti, an affiliate of the Sanatan Sanstha, which clashed with Dabholkar over his anti-superstition initiatives.

During the trial, the CBI’s special prosecutor, Prakash Suryawanshi, presented evidence from 20 witnesses in support of the prosecution’s case, culminating in the submission of the final report in September 2023, signifying the conclusion of the evidentiary phase.

In defence, lawyers Virendra Ichalkaranjikar, Prakash Salsingikar, and Suvarna Avhad-Vats called upon two defence witnesses to assert that the alleged perpetrators were not present in Pune at the time of Dabholkar’s assassination.

Following extensive deliberations, both the prosecution and defence presented written arguments. Additionally, lawyer Omkar Nevgi, representing Dabholkar’s son, Hamid, and daughter, Mukta, submitted arguments in alignment with the prosecution’s stance.

The trial proceedings, which commenced in September 2021, encountered various delays, primarily due to procedural complexities. These included efforts by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to obtain forensic analysis from Scotland Yard in the UK and an extensive yet unsuccessful search for the alleged firearms used in the crime, purportedly discarded in the Thane Creek riverbed.

The outcome of this trial bears immense significance as Dabholkar’s assassination triggered a series of targeted attacks on prominent rationalists over the subsequent four years. Among the victims were veteran Leftist leader Govind Pansare (in Kolhapur on February 16, 2015), scholar MM Kalburgi (in Dharwad, Karnataka, on August 30, 2015), and journalist Gauri Lankesh (in Bengaluru on September 20, 2017).

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