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ATS to get 2018 Nallasopara arms case mastermind’s custody

By Manish K Pathak and Charul Shah, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JAN 31, 2020 12:50 AM IST

The Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) on Thursday obtained the permission of the special UAPA court to arrest Rishikesh Devdikar alias MD Murli — the alleged mastermind in the 2018 Nallasopara arms haul case.

In August 2018, the accused and his aides had planned to target the Sunburn music festival in Pune. The ATS had seized country bombs and petrol bombs from the group’s possession.

The Maharashtra ATS would now present the arrest warrant before a Karnataka court to seek Devdikar’s custody. Devdikar is alleged to be the head of all the ‘operations’ undertaken by the group of accused who, along with the arms case, have been named in the murder probe of journalist Gauri Lankesh and rationalists Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi.

The Karnataka Police’s special investigation team (SIT), which is probing Lankesh’s murder, had arrested Devdikar, the 18th accused in the case, from Jharkhand on January 9, two-and-a-half years after the journalist was shot dead. “Rishikesh Devdikar is the brain behind Gauri Lankesh’s murder. His name came after we arrested Amol Kale, his associate,” deputy commissioner of police MN Anucheth, chief investigating officer of Karnataka SIT said.

Special public prosecutor Raja Thackeray, along with public prosecutor Sunil Gonsalves, had earlier moved a plea seeking a production warrant against Devdikar after the prosecution obtained the custody of Pratap Hazra, till February 3. Hazra was arrested for allegedly training the accused in the Nallasopara arms haul case and in connection with the four murders. The prosecution argued that it needs to analyse the data recovered from Hazra’s mobile and the bank account details to trace the source of funding. Hazra’s lawyer Sanjeev Punalekar said Hazra was assaulted by the police and argued that the reasons for seeking the extension of Hazra’s custody are not sufficient. However, the court ruled out the allegation of assault on Hazra by police and also extended his custody.

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