A Special Court in Pune on Wednesday framed the charges against five men linked to the Hindutva outfit Sanatan Sanstha in Dr. Narendra Dabholkar murder case of 2013.
Additional Sessions Judge SR Navandar framed charges against four of the accused, Dr. Virendrasingh Tawade, Sachin Andure Sharad Kalaskar and Vikram Bhave for murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and under Section 16 of the draconian UAPA pertaining to terrorist act and various provisions of the Arms Act for the use of firearm, reported Indian Express. The court has charged another accused Advocate Sanjeev Punalekar for destruction of evidence in the case.
While Tawade, Andure and Kalaskar are in jail in judicial custody, Punalekar and Bhave are out on bail.
All the five accused pleaded not guilty to charges against them, the newspaper reported. The process of framing of charges thus marks the beginning of the trial in the eight-year-old murder case.
Maharashtra’s most vocal rationalist and founder of Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS) was shot dead while he was on a morning walk on the Pune’s Vitthal Ramji Shinde Bridge in the mid-city area in 2013. He was 67. Hindutva organisations and fringe groups have attacked and continue to attack MANS, alleging that it is trying to destroy the “cultural fabric”, and that its main target is the Hindu community.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which took over the case from Pune City police in 2014, has till now charge-sheeted five accused in the case.
In 2016, the CBI first arrested Sanatan member and ENT surgeon Dr Virendrasinh Tawade. The CBI called him the mastermind of the conspiracy to kill Dr Dabholkar. Two years later, the CBI arrested two more Sanatan Sanstha members Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar. The two were named by the CBI as the two persons who shot Dr Dabholkar dead. In 2019, the CBI further arrested Mumbai based lawyer Sanjeev Punalekar and his aide Vikram Bhave, both linked to Sanatan Sanstha. According to the CBI, Punalekar played a role in destruction of evidence in the case and Bhave in conducting the recce and destruction of evidence.