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Sunday, Sep 22, 2019

Bombay HC raps state, CM for slow progress in Pansare murder case

This is not the first time that the HC has rapped the government over the investigation. At the previous hearing of the case, on March 14, the court said the state has been reduced to a “laughing stock” for failing to catch the people responsible for the murder.

mumbai Updated: Mar 29, 2019 11:20 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Rationalist Govind Pansare was murdered  in Kolhapur in 2015.
Rationalist Govind Pansare was murdered in Kolhapur in 2015. (HT File )
         

The Bombay high court (HC) on Thursday continued to up the pressure on the state government over the slow pace of their investigation into the 2015 murder of rationalist Govind Pansare in Kolhapur. It pulled up senior government officials, and the Maharashtra chief minister, without naming him.

“You hold 11 portfolios, including the home ministry, but do not have time to look into the matter and remove obstacles in the investigation,” a division bench of justice SC Dharmadhikari and justice BP Colabawalla said, without naming CM Devendra Fadnavis. Chief ministers must realise they are not only leaders of their parties, but also heads of states, the bench said.

The judges also slammed senior bureaucrats. “What are the secretaries doing,” it asked.

“This is shameful. Nobody appears to have time to supervise and review the progress of the investigation.”

This is not the first time that the HC has rapped the government over the investigation. At the previous hearing of the case, on March 14, the court said the state has been reduced to a “laughing stock” for failing to catch the people responsible for the murder. The bench’s comments come as it hears petitions filed by the families of Pansare and Dr Narendra Dabholkar, another rationalist who was shot dead in a similar manner, in Pune on August 20, 2013. Maharashtra CID’s Special Investigation Team (SIT) is looking into the Pansare murder case, while the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is probing the killing of Dabholkar.

On Thursday, the judges also expressed doubts over the usefulness of increasing the reward for anyone who comes forward with information on the people accused in the Pansare murder case. The government has increased the reward from the Rs10 lakh to Rs50 lakh. “This perception itself is faulty,” said the bench. “This is a knee-jerk reaction,” they said, adding, “Do you think that people will take you to the absconding accused.” Two people accused of killing Pansare are yet to be traced.

Senior advocate Ashok Mundargi, who represented the state government, responded saying it was just a means to obtain information. Mundargi also told the court that owing to the lack of manpower, and due to preparation and filing of the charge sheet, the actual work of investigation had slowed down. But now, the SIT manpower has been increased to 35 and the team will be able to devote its time properly to the probe, he said.

The Counsel for the petitioners, advocate Abhay Nevagi, said he had gone through the charge sheets in four cases and noticed serious lapses by the investigation machinery. He pointed out that an accused arrested in the Gauri Lankesh murder case had, in his statement, revealed how they destroyed the weapon used to kill the journalist on the advice of a person from Mumbai, but no action was taken in Maharashtra on the information.

Nevagi was referring to Bengaluru journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead on September 5, 2017. Two years earlier (August 30, 2015), renowned epigraphist from Karnataka, MM Kalburgi was also shot dead in the same way. Investigators believe the same group may be involved in all four murders. Nevagi also pointed out that the police and the CBI did not pursue statements of some of the accused in the Nalla Sopara arms haul case that some weapons seized from them were used in these murders. The court has now posted the petitions for further hearing on April 26.

First Published: Mar 29, 2019 11:20 IST