The main accused in the murder of anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar has moved the Bombay High Court for bail, Live Law reported on Tuesday. Virendrasinh Tawde, a surgeon and member of extremist Hindutva group Sanatan Sanstha, is currently lodged in the Yerawada prison in Pune.

Dabholkar was shot dead in Pune on August 20, 2013. The Central Bureau of Investigation took over the inquiry into the case from the police in 2014.

A bench comprising Justices SS Shinde and NJ Jamadar on Tuesday directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to respond to Tawde’s petition in two weeks.

In 2016, the CBI had arrested Tawde. The investigation agency had alleged that he was the mastermind of the conspiracy to murder Dabholkar.

In 2018, two other members of Sanatan Sanstha, Sharad Kalaskar and Sachin Andure, were arrested. The next year, the CBI arrested lawyer Sanjeev Punalekar and his associate Vikram Bhave, who were also linked to the group.

In September this year, a special court in Pune framed charges against the five accused persons. This marked the commencement of the trial in the murder case.

Tawade, Kalaskar, Andure and Bhave were charged 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. Punalekar was charged for destroying evidence in the case.

Also read: Narendra Dabholkar murder: Charges framed against five accused men, they plead not guilty

Tawde had approached the special court for bail in October 2017, July 2018 and September 2020. He moved the High Court after his third petition was rejected.

In his bail petition in the Bombay High Court, Tawde claimed that he was labelled the mastermind of the conspiracy without any concrete evidence, according to Live Law.

Tawde told the court that in a chargesheet related to the case in 2016, two men named Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar were mentioned as shooters.

He added that in the final chargesheet, however, the CBI named Andure and Kalaskar as the shooters.

Tawde’s lawyer Virendra Ichalkaranjikar said: “In such a case, there cannot be reasonable grounds which could point out to accusation against the appellant being prima facie true.”

The main accused in the case also claimed that the special judge was wrong in saying that in the past, he had been convicted for terror activities, according to Live Law.

The High Court will hear Tawde’s bail petition on October 13, PTI reported.