A special court in Maharashtra’s Kolhapur city has framed charges against 10 persons who were allegedly involved in the murder of Communist Party of India leader Govind Pansare, PTI reported on Wednesday.

The development comes nearly eight years after Pansare, a rationalist, was killed in an attack by two unidentified gunmen on his way home from a morning walk in Kolhapur on February 16, 2015. He died of bullet wounds four days later.

Special Anti-Terrorism Squad Judge SS Tambe on Monday framed charges against Sameer Gaikwad, Virendra Sinh Tawde, Amol Kale, Vasudev Suryawanshi, Bharat Kurane, Amit Degvekar, Sharad Kalaskar, Sachin Andure, Amit Baddi and Ganesh Miskin. Two more accused persons, Vinay Pawar and Sarang Akolkar, are absconding.

The judge asked the prosecution to produce the list of witnesses in the case and documents from investigating agencies, The Times of India reported.

The charges have been framed under Sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, special public prosecutor Shivajirao Rane said. Charges under the Arms Act pertaining to illegal possession and use of firearms have also been framed, he a.dded

Defence lawyer Sameer Patwardhan said that all the accused persons have pleaded not guilty to the charges and are ready to face trial.

On August 3 this year, the Bombay High Court had directed the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad to take over the inquiry in the case from the Special Investigation Team. A bench of Justices Revati Mohite Dere and Sharmila Deshmukh had observed that more than enough time had been given to the Special Investigation Team to look into the murder of the activist.

Two persons accused of involvement in Pansare’s killing – Kalaskar and Andhure – have also been named in the case involving the killing of anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar.

Dabholkar was shot dead in Pune on August 20, 2013. Investigating agencies have said that his killing as well as the murders of Pansare and activist MM Kalburgi in 2015 and journalist Gauri Lankesh in 2017 are linked and that Hindutva extremists were behind them.