The Bombay high court on Tuesday directed investigating agencies probing the murders of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar and communist leader Govind Pansare, to “shed apprehensions”, “be bold”, and question other members of the organisation to which Sameer Gaikwad, the lone accused arrested for Pansare’s murder, belongs. Gaikwad, who was arrested in September 2015, is believed to be a member of Sanathan Sanstha, a right-wing, non-profit trust based in Goa.
Though the court refrained from mentioning names, it directed both the state’s special investigation team (SIT) and the CBI, which are probing the murders of Pansare and Dabholkar, respectively, to tackle both direct and indirect obstacles to make headway in the cases.
A bench comprising Justice SC Dharmadhikari and Justice Shalini Phansalkar Joshi said investigators must speak with family members and associates of Gaikwad and must also “question other members of the organisation to which Gaikwad belongs”.
The directions came while the bench was examining the status reports submitted by both sets of investigators. The court expressed its dissatisfaction over the negligible progress made in both probes.
Additional solicitor general Anil Singh, who was appearing for the CBI, said the agency suspected that the same weapon was used for the murders of Pansare, Dabholkar and Kannanda scholar MM Kalburgi, and was hence sending the ballistic reports to Scotland Yard for an independent opinion. The court, however, asked if any of the investigators had bothered to get in touch with local police officers who had first investigated the murders.
“If you suspect some similarity in the cases then why don’t you get help from the local police? Why don’t you question other members of the organisation to which the accused person belongs? Talking to them will give you a much better idea,” the court said.
The judges also said it was the “responsibility of the agencies to ensure an environment that accommodates dissent and where citizens do not fear expressing an independent opinion”.
“You are both premier agencies and we expect you to show promptness while investigating such sensitive cases. You must demonstrate vigilance. If you are facing any difficulties or any direct or indirect obstacles, then be candid and say so,” the bench said.
The court also directed investigators to get inputs from the relatives of both Dabholkar and Pansare. The next hearing has been scheduled for June 23.
Rationalist Narendra Dabholkar was shot to death by two unidentified men on August 20, 2013 while he was out on a morning walk. The men, who had come on a motorbike, shot Dabholkar in his head and chest and he died on the spot.
CPI leader Govind Pansare was shot at by unknown assailants on February 16 2015 in Kolhapur while he and his wife Uma were returning from their morning walk. Pansare succumbed to his injuries four days later.