The CBI on Wednesday opposed the bail plea of advocate Sanjeev Punalekar, counsel for the fringe right-wing outfit Sanatan Sanshtha, and again sought his custody in connection with the murder of eminent rationalist Dr. Narendra Dabholkar.
The CBI, through Special Public Prosecutor Prakash Suryavanshi, sought his custody on the grounds that it needed to interrogate Mr. Punalekar regarding documents and other materials seized from the him during his arrest on May 26.
A special court on June 4 remanded Mr. Punalekar, and his aide, Sanatan Sanstha member Vikram Bhave, in judicial custody after two spells in the CBI’s custody.
At the time, the court denied the CBI’s plea seeking a further extension of the custody of the accused, observing that the investigating agency had not made any fresh progress in the investigation when the accused was in its custody.
Mr. Punalekar and Mr. Bhave have been alleged to have participated in the conspiracy to murder Dr. Dabholkar, especially in destruction of evidence and in aiding and abetting Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar, named by the investigating agencies as the assailants of the late rationalist.
Advocate Virendra Ichalkaranjikar, Mr. Punalekar’s defence counsel, said the CBI plea seeking Mr. Punalekar’s custody for a second time was nothing but “a delaying tactic”.
Mr. Ichalkaranjikar said, “Despite having custody of advocate Punalekar for 10 days, the CBI failed to uncover anything to further their probe. It is inconceivable why the agency needs his custody now as they could easily have questioned Mr. Punalekar about the material seized from the electronic gadgets had there been something incriminating in them.”
The hearing will continue on Thursday.
Earlier this week, the CBI’s counsel, in his arguments, vehemently opposed Mr. Punalekar’s bail plea on the grounds that he would “tamper with the evidence” if released. The prosecutor, advocate Suryavanshi, had submitted that Mr. Punalekar had exceeded all limits in advising Sharad Kalaskar to destroy the firearms allegedly used to murder Dr. Dabholkar and journalist Gauri Lankesh.
Likewise, he argued that the CBI needed more time to probe how Mr. Bhave conducted the reconnaissance before Dr. Dabholkar’s murder and interrogate him to uncover details of the getaway motorbike used by the two shooters.
In September last, seeking an extension of Kalaskar’s custody, the CBI told the court that in July 2018, the accused had allegedly dismantled four country-made pistols and thrown them in the creeks of Greater Mumbai and Thane, while suggesting that one of them could be the weapon used to kill Dr. Dabholkar.
In his statement to the CBI last year, Kalaskar allegedly said that Mr. Punalekar, known for his defamatory statements against Dr. Dabholkar, had asked him to destroy the weapons.
According to the CBI, Kalaskar further revealed that it was the Thane-based Mr. Bhave who had allegedly planned the reconnaissance, pointed Dr. Dabholkar to the assailants and even planned the getaway route for the shooters.