The Bombay High Court on Friday asked the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Maharashtra Crime Investigation Department to state clearly when their inquiries into the murders of activists Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar would finish, reported PTI.

The Maharashtra CID is conducting an inquiry into the killing of rationalist and Communist Party of India leader Govind Pansare in 2015, and the CBI is investigating the 2013 murder of anti-superstition activist Dabholkar.

The High Court was hearing petitions filed by the relatives of Dabholkar and Pansare seeking a court monitoring of the two investigations. The petitions were not taken up for over a year, according to Live Law.

During the hearing, the petitioners’ lawyer Shrikant Shivade said that while the CBI has filed three chargesheets, there had been no progress in the CID’s investigation in the Pansare case.

Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, appearing for the central agency, told a bench of Justices SS Shinde and Manish Pitale that the central agency was filing a report from time to time and will file a new one. At this, state’s lawyer Mankunwar Deshmukh also said he will file a status report.

“The incidents happened in 2013 and 2015,” the High Court said. “We are now in 2021. How long will it go on like this?”

Singh said the central agency had “done whatever was possible,” but was unable to recover the weapon used in the Dabholkar case, which the accused supposedly dumped in the Thane creek.

The High Court said that in “sensitive cases”, citizens of the country deserved to know when investigating agencies would complete their inquiry and when the trial is likely to begin.

Advocate Abhay Nevagi, appearing for the petitioner, said that he will seek an amendment to change the investigating officer.

The court, however, said that it was not casting aspersions at the state or the central agency. “...but we are disturbed by the petitioners’ statement that the trial has already begun in Karnataka, but here the investigation is not complete,” it said. The court was referring to the trail in the murder of rationalist MM Kalburgi.

The court asked the agencies to make a clear statement on how much more time they will need to finish their investigations and adjourned the matter to March 30.

The murders

Narendra Dabholkar was shot dead in Pune on August 20, 2013. The CBI has made a few arrests, including Sanatan Sanstha member and ENT surgeon Virendrasinh Tawde, in connection with the case. In March 2019, the Bombay High Court had pulled up the Maharashtra government for its alleged laxity in pursuing the two cases. It had wondered whether then Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was too busy to enquire about the investigations into the killings.

Govind Pansare was attacked by two unidentified gunmen on his way home from a morning walk in western Maharashtra’s Kolhapur on February 16, 2015. He died of bullet wounds on February 20. His wife Uma, who was shot at, survived the attack but is now paralysed. According to the Central Bureau of Investigation, Kalaskar stayed in Kolhapur for more than a week before Pansare’s murder. Nine people have been named so far in the case, including Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar, two activists with links to Hindutva organisation Sanatan Sanstha. They are absconding at present.

MM Kalburgi, a Kendriya Sahitya Akademi awardee and anti-superstition activist, was shot dead at his home in Dharwad district in Karnataka on August 30, 2015.

Investigating agencies have said these three cases as well as the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh in 2017 were linked and right-wing extremists were behind them. In February 2019, the Supreme Court had noted that the murders of Kalburgi, Lankesh, Dabholkar and Pansare were part of a “very serious case”. Following that, the Supreme Court had directed that the murder case of Kalburgi be transferred to the same special investigation team that is looking into Lankesh’s killing.