Dabholkar murder: Pune court extends Punalekar’s custody till June 4

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) conducted a forensic psychological assessment and forensic statement analysis on the accused advocate Sanjiv Gajanan Punalekar arrested in the murder of rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar. The court on Saturday also extended Punalekar and his aide Vikram Vinay Bhave’s CBI custody till June 4.

Earlier, on May 26, the court had extended Punalekar and Bhave’s custody till June 1.

The tests were conducted at the Central Forensic Laboratory, Navi Mumbai. The results of both the tests are awaited, according to SR Singh, additional superintendent of police, who is investigating the case.

The information was revealed by Prakash Suryavanshi, special public prosecutor, during a hearing in the case in a court in Pune on Saturday.

While Subhash Jha, represented Punalekar, Bhave was represented by advocate Ghanshyam Upadhyay.

The custody was extended by additional sessions judge AV Rotte in the absence of special judge Kishore Vadane.

The two were arrested on May 25 by the CBI based on an alleged confession made by Sharad Kalaskar, who is one of the two accused shooters of Dabholkar. Kalaskar allegedly made the confessional statement on October 12, 2018 – seven months before Punalekar and Bhave’s arrest – while he was being interrogated by Karnataka special investigation team (SIT) in the murder case of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh.

The defence lawyers raised the point of seven-month delay in the arrest of the two and Kalaskar’s alleged confession. However, Suryavanshi claimed that the seven months were spent in substantiating the allegation and gathering information.

In an hour-long argument against extension of the CBI custody, the two defence lawyers also claimed that the advice given by Punalekar to Kalaskar was information privileged under Section 126 of Evidence Act. However, in their submission to the court, CBI said, “The accused is not only an advocate, but is also related to Sanatan Sanstha and has conspired with others/chargesheeted in this murder.” It further added, “In this case, he has not acted as an advocate, but has crossed limits and advised the accused, who shot Dabholkar to destroy the weapon as well.”

The CBI, in its submission to the court, claimed that they have seized a mobile phone and two laptops from the possession of Punalekar. Their custody, said Suryavanshi, is necessary for further course of the investigation as the data seized from the mobile phone is under investigation.

The CBI is now investigating the conspiracy and trying to verify whether anyone else was involved in the 2013 murder case.

Suryavanshi also referred to a status report submitted to the Bombay High Court dated April 26, 2019, without revealing the contents of the report. The report, he said, provides enough ground to keep the two in custody.

First Published:
Jun 02, 2019 16:39 IST

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