The Bombay High Court on Thursday wondered if Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was too busy to enquire about the investigations into the killing of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, reported PTI. Upset over the pace of investigations, the bench said: “It is shameful that almost every investigation requires the court’s intervention.”
The Central Bureau of Investigation is probing the Dabholkar killing, while the state Crime Investigation Department is looking into the Pansare case. Dabholkar was shot dead in Pune in August 2013 and Pansare was attacked 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.
“What is the CM doing?” asked the court. “He holds 11 portfolios, including Home, but does not find the time to take stock of the case. His deputies do not have the time to remove obstacles in the probe?”
The CID told the court that the agency had doubled the strength of the Special Investigation Team investigating the Pansare case. There were now 35 officers in the team. “Top officers have reviewed the case thoroughly recently,” the CID told the bench. “Five meetings have been conducted in the past few months, and the reward announced for any information on the absconding accused has been increased from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 50 lakh.”
But the bench called these “knee-jerk reactions” after the court’s observations during the last hearing. “We are not impressed,” said the court. “You think people will come forward to help you for money? Of all you know, they might be earning more for keeping quiet.”
The CBI counsel told the court that the agency had already identified shooters in the Dabholkar case and filed chargesheets. But the counsel sought more time to work on some extra information that it got from the Karnataka Police.
The court granted both the agencies time till April 26 for further investigation.
The court said the investigating agencies only started work after the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh in September 2017. “It is shameful and we should not be saying this but, if that unfortunate incident in Karnataka [killing of Lankesh] had not happened and you [Maharashtra authorities] had not coordinated with Karnataka police, you would have remained clueless,” the court said.
In January, the Bombay High Court told the CBI and Criminal Investigation Department not to depend on information from the inquiry into journalist Gauri Lankesh’s murder in the investigation of the Dabholkar and Pansare killings.