The trial in activist Narendra Dabholkar’s murder case began in Maharashtra’s Pune city on Wednesday as a court framed charges against five accused persons, Bar and Bench reported. All of them pleaded not guilty.
The anti-superstition activist was shot dead in Pune on August 20, 2013. Investigating agencies have said that his killing as well as the murders of activists Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi in 2015 and journalist Gauri Lankesh in 2017 were linked, and Hindu right-wing extremists were behind them.
The Central Bureau of investigation had arrested five men – Virendrasinh Tawde, Sharad Kalaskar, Sachin Andure, Sanjeev Punalekar and Vikram Bhave – in connection with Dabholkar’s killing. All of them were linked to extremist Hindutva group Sanatan Sanstha.
Tawade was allegedly the mastermind of the conspiracy to murder the activist.
The special court in Pune framed charges against Tawade, Kalaskar, Andure and Bhave under Sections 302 (murder) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code as well as sections of the Arms Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, according to Bar and Bench.
Punalekar was charged under Section 201 of the Indian Penal Code for destroying evidence in the case.
“What appears is that murder of Dr. Dabholkar was aimed to be murder of the ideology he was carrying and the work he was doing,” Additional Additional Sessions Judge SR Navandar said, according to Bar and Bench.
The judge said said that arrangements will be made to physically bring the accused to court during the trial as far as possible, The Indian Express reported. He added that if required hearings could also take place at the prisons where the accused are lodged.
Tawade is presently lodged in the Yerawada Prison in Pune, according to the newspaper. Kalaskar is in the Arthur Road Prison in Mumbai while Andure is in Harsul Prison in Aurangabad city. Bhave and Punalekar are on bail.
The court ordered that Kalaskar and Andure be moved to Yerawada Prison for the trial, the newspaper reported.