A day after the arrest of two alleged arms dealers in the murder case of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, a Pune court on granted police custody to the accused Manish Nagori (24) and Vilas Khandelwal (22).
Investigating Officer Assistant Commissioner of Police Rajendra Bhamre said that a ballistic report found that bullets in a pistol recovered from the accused matched those in Dabholkar's body. The Pune police believes that accused had supplied arms to Dabholkar's killers.
The duo was initially arrested on August 20, the day of Dabholkar's murder in an arms case. Nagori and Khandelwal were later handed over to the Pune police in December last year in the case of a security guard's murder. They have been in police custody for over 20 days over the last five months.
The defence lawyer Biju Aloor maintained that the accused are innocent. Manish Nagori told judicial magistrate first class A.B. Shaikh that ATS chief Rakesh Maria offered them Rs. 25 lakh so that they would confess to the crime. “We were given third degree torture by the ATS. They told us to accept the sum of money, and that they would provide us with lawyers,” Nagori told a packed courtroom, calling the arrest motivated by political pressure.
Mr. Aloor stated that even while the two were in police custody for other crimes, they were being interrogated for their alleged involvement in Dabholkar's murder.
Even as Mr. Maria refused to comment on the accusation made on him, sources in the agency told The Hindu that the allegations were baseless. “We never said they were on the spot on the day of the crime or that they were shooters. We had picked them as they were weapons suppliers and the ballistic report has supported our claims; so to make allegation that we paid them money is completely unfounded,” sources said.
The accused also stated that they were arrested by the ATS in Mumbai on August 20 at 10-15 a.m., barely three hours after Dabholkar's murder. There was no possibility of them travelling from Pune to Mumbai in that duration, he said. However, ATS records show that the duo was arrested at 12-30 pm on August 20th.
According to sources, On 28th November 2013, the Maharashtra ATS submitted a report to Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil. The report, which stated that the ballistic report of one of the weapons seized from them matched with that used in the killing of Dabholkar, was also shared with the Pune police, probing the murder case.
These were the first arrests made by the Pune police in this case.