Six years after rationalist Narendra Dabholkar was shot dead, the trial does not seem likely to start anytime soon before the special UAPA court in Pune.

The case is pending at the stage of framing of charges. Between September 2016 and November 2019, the CBI has filed three chargesheets, and is continuing its investigation under the Bombay high court’s watch.

The delay is partly attributed to the CBI’s effort to trace the firearms used in the murder. The lawyers associated with the case pointed out that a single judge bench of the high court had issued an interim order in 2016 restraining the (Pune) trial court from framing charges “till further orders”. The interim directive stands extended from time to time, they added.

Special public prosecutor Prakash Suryawanshi, representing the CBI before the Pune court, said: “The high court and the trial court here have given us (CBI) time for the ongoing investigation, focused on the recovery of firear m.”

The CBI has so far arrested eight suspects, including main conspirator and Panvelbased ENT specialist Virendrasinh Tawde; Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar, the two men accused of shooting Dabholkar dead on a bridge near Balgandharva Rangmandir in Pune around 7.20am on August 20, 2013, and Vikram Bhave, accused of helping the shooters conduct a recce.

Tawde and Kalaskar, who is also an accused in the murder of jour nalist-tur ned-activist Gauri Lankesh at Bengaluru on September 5, 2017, are lodged in Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail, while Andure is in Aurangabad jail and Bhave is in Pune’s Yerawada central jail.

The CBI has described Tawde as “the then deputy chief organiser of Hindu Jan Jagruti Samiti, a sister outfit of Sanatan Sanstha”, who was at loggerheads with Dabholkar over the latter’s antisuperstition drive.

The probe agency has till date filed chargesheets against Tawde on September 6, 2016; against Andure and Kalaskar on February 13, 2019; and the third on November 20, 2019, against Bhave and Sanjiv Punalekar, the Mumbai lawyer arrested with Bhave in May last year and currently out on bail.

Three other accused — Amol Kale, Rakesh Bangera and Amit Digwekar — got default bail after the CBI failed to file a chargesheet within 90 days or seek an extension of time under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act provisions. Kale, Bangera and Digwekar, also accused in journalist-turned-activist Gauri Lankesh’s murder, are currently lodged in a Bengaluru jail in that case.