Dabholkar murder: Probe agencies did not unmask masterminds, says court

In his order, judge P.P. Jadhav noted that the prosecution failed to convert motive and suspicion into evidence

File photo of a protest against the government in 2013 following the murder of Narendra Dabholkar
File photo of a protest against the government in 2013 following the murder of Narendra Dabholkar


The investigating agencies could not expose the masterminds behind the murder of rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar, and must introspect whether it was a mere failure or a "deliberate inaction" owing to the influence of any "person in power," the trial court in Pune said on Friday in its judgement.

The two assailants who were convicted were not the masterminds, additional sessions Judge P.P. Jadhav observed in his verdict.

The special court for UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) cases convicted Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar in the 2013 murder and sentenced them to life imprisonment, but acquitted alleged conspirators Dr Virendrasinh Tawde, Sanjeev Punalekar, and Vikram Bhave for want of evidence.

In his order, Jadhav noted that there was evidence about motive for the murder against Tawde, and reasonable suspicion against Punalekar and Bhave regarding involvement in the crime. But the prosecution failed to convert motive and suspicion into evidence, the order said. As for Andure and Kalaskar, it was proved beyond reasonable doubt that they shot Dabholkar dead in Pune city on 20 August 2013, the court said.

The prosecution also failed to prove the offences under section 16 (punishment for terrorist act) of the UAPA and section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC against any of the accused, it said. Except ideological differences, Andure and Kalaskar had no personal enmity or rivalry with Dr Dabholkar, the court noted.

"The murder is committed with very well prepared plan, which was executed by Andure and Kalaskar. Considering the economic and social status of both the convicts, they are not the masterminds....The mastermind behind the murder is someone else. Pune police we well as CBI has failed to unearth those masterminds. They have to introspect whether it is their failure or deliberate inaction on their part due to influence by any person in power," the order said.

Reacting to the judgement, Hamid and Mukta Dabholkar, children of the slain rationalist, said it came after 11 years. The verdict affirmed their faith in the Indian judiciary, the Dabholkar family said in a statement issued by the Andhashraddha Nirman Samiti (Committee for Eradication of Superstition, an organisation founded by Dabholkar). The Samiti will challenge the acquittal of Tawde, Punalekar and Bhave in the high court, the statement added.

Sanatan Sanstha, the Hindu right-wing outfit to which some of the accused were linked, said in its reaction that a conspiracy to portray it as a supporter of "saffron terror" had failed owing to the acquittals, and convicts Andure and Kalaskar were not linked to the organisation.

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