A Pune Special Court last week framed charges against all the five persons accused in the murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar.
Dabholkar, founder of Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS) was shot by two assailants during a morning walk in Pune in 2013.
MANS worked towards the eradication of superstitious activities.
Four accused, Dr. Virendrasingh Tawade, Sachin Andure, Sharad Kalaskar, and Vikram Bhave were charged with offenses under Sections 302 with 120B or 34 for criminal conspiracy and executing the murder.
Additionally, they were charged with offense Section 16 (terrorist act) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and provisions of Arms Act.
Accused Sanjeev Punalekar, a Mumbai based lawyer, was charged with Section 201 of IPC, for causing evidence to disappear.
Additional Sessions Judge SR Navandar passed the order framing charges, paving way for their trial.
The Court observed that a conspiracy to eliminate Dr. Dabholkar was hatched so as to create a terror in the mind of the people at large so that no one should undertake the work as of 'Andhashradha Nirmulan Samiti'.
the court observed that What appears is that murder of Dr. Dabholkar was aimed to be the murder of the ideology he was carrying and the work he was doing.
The accused, linked to the Sanatan Sanstha organization were arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) from 2016 to 2019.
They took over the case in 2014 from Pune City police and filed a charge sheet against 5 accused in the case.
While Tawade, Andure, and Kalaskar are in judicial custody, Punalekar and Bhave are out on bail.
Special Public Prosecutor Prakash Suryavanshi unfolded the case by referring to statements of different witnesses and argued that “there was motive on the part of the accused persons to assassinate deceased Dr. Dabholkar”.
He added that there was sufficient evidence to frame charges against the accused.
As part of the procedure for framing of charges, the accused informed the Court that they pleaded not guilty to each charge alleged against them.
Advocate Virendra Ichalkaranjikar and Punalekar present in person in court opposed the charges pointing out that there was no evidence against the accused and CBI had relied upon statements obtained through extra-judicial means.
They further stated that the prosecution had initially taken a stand that two other persons had committed the murder. However, that story was given a go-bye and without obtaining permission for “re-investigation” Andure and Kalaskar were falsely implicated as assailants.
Ichalkaranjikar argued.that Tawade was arraigned due to alleged personal animosity with Dabholkar and Bhave was arraigned only because he was convicted in another case.