Dabholkar murder case: Sanatan lawyer remanded in CBI custody till June 23

first_imgA special court on Thursday remanded right wing lawyer Sanjeev Punalekar, counsel for the fringe outfit Sanatan Sanshtha, in the custody of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for the third time till June 23 in connection with the 2013 murder of rationalist Dr. Narendra Dabholkar.A court of Additional Sessions Judge R.M. Pande was hearing arguments on the CBI’s plea seeking the accused lawyer’s custody yet again on grounds that it needed to interrogate Mr. Punalekar on the allegedly incriminating documents and files seized from his laptop during his arrest on May 26.Seeking further custody, special public prosecutor Prakash Suryavanshi submitted before the court that certain documents recovered from Mr. Punalekar’s laptop allegedly contained information regarding the Nallasopara arms haul case.He further said that the documents mentioned mobilising 10-12 advocates who used to work for the Sanatan Sanstha to defend charges against the fringe right wing outfit.Mr. Suryavanshi further said that a certain letter (allegedly written by Mr. Punalekar) addressed to a ‘sadguru’ (godman) was found among the documents.“We have retrieved a letter written by Mr. Punalekar which was addressed to Dr. Dabholkar in 2012. Furthermore, a folder titled ‘Dabholkar’ was saved in the laptop,” he said, stating that the CBI needed time to probe these findings.Arguing against the CBI’s plea for further custody, defence counsel Virendra Ichalkaranjikar said that merely narrating the court proceedings of a case (the Nallasopara arms haul case) or making some observations about the conduct of the judge in that case could not be termed as “incriminating” by “any stretch of imagination”.He further said that the idea of mobilising any number of advocates for defending cases instituted against any particular organisation including the Sanatan Sanstha was in no way outside the Constitutional and legal framework.“Addressing a person as “sadguru” in itself is not incriminating. Even if this reference to “sadguru” is read in the context of the other contents of the said letter referred to in the CBI’s application, it can neither be linked with the present crime [Dr. Dabholkar murder] with which CBI is concerned nor is any element of criminality on advocate Punalekar’s revealed here,” said advocate Dharmraj Chandel, another defence counsel.He further said that Mr. Punalekar’s opposition to Dr. Dabholkar was no secret and that merely being opposed to, or critical about the deceased rationalist was neither an offence in itself nor could be connected with the crime.“Advocate Punalekar’s criticisms about Dr. Dabholkar are in the public domain. So, there is nothing secret about such letters. Furthermore, why couldn’t the CBI uncover anything of substance during the 11 days it had custody of Mr. Punalekar’s laptops?” Mr. Chandel asked.The CBI, on June 19, had moved an application in court seeking a further five-day custody of Mr. Punalekar.The court had already remanded Mr. Punalekar, and his aide, Sanatan Sanstha member Vikram Bhave, to judicial custody on June 4 after two spells in CBI’s custody.In their application, the agency reiterated the extreme antipathy of the Sanatan Sanstha and the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti (HJS) towards rationalists like Dr. Dabholkar.The application had mentioned how Dr. Dabholkar’s alleged shooter, Sharad Kalaskar visited Mr. Punalekar’s office in Mumbai’s Fort area where he allegedly told the lawyer of his role in the crime following which he advised Kalaskar to destroy the firearms allegedly used to murder the rationalist.CBI had sought Mr. Punalekar’s custody on grounds that the Dabholkar murder was “a case with national and international ramifications and was connected to three other murder cases” (that of veteran Communist leader Govind Pansare, scholar M.M. Kalburgi and journalist Gauri Lankesh).In September last year, seeking an extension of Mr. Kalaskar’s custody, the CBI had told the court that in July 2018, the accused had allegedly dismantled four country-made pistols and thrown them in the creeks of Greater Mumbai and Thane, while suggesting that one of the firearms could be the weapon used to kill Dr. Dabholkar.In his statement to the CBI last year, Mr. Kalaskar had allegedly said that Mr. Punalekar, known for his defamatory statements against Dr. Dabholkar, had asked him to destroy the weapons.According to the CBI, Mr. Kalaskar had further revealed that it was Thane-based Mr. Bhave who had allegedly planned the reconnaissance, and pointed out Dr. Dabholkar to the assailants and even planned the getaway route for the shooters after the crime.last_img

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