The Crime Investigation Department, which has been probing the killing of activist Govind Pansare since seven years, told the Bombay High Court on Monday it had “no objection” if the investigation is transferred to the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS).
In 2015, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the CID was formed following the order of the HC while hearing a plea by Pansare’s family members seeking probe by a special team.
On February 16, 2015, Pansare was shot in Kolhapur. He succumbed to his injuries on February 20.
Justices Revati Mohite-Dere and Sharmila Deshmukh is currently hearing two petitions and several applications filed by the family members of Pansare and slain rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, seeking that the court monitor the probe into the two killings. The state CID is probing Pansare’s case whereas the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is probing Dabholkar’s murder.
During the hearing on Monday, advocate for Pansare’s family, Abhay Nevagi, argued that in the last seven years, the SIT has not made much progress in the case and sought that the case be transferred to the ATS.
Ashok Mundargi, counsel for the SIT, told the court that a letter has been sent by the CID chief stating that it had no objection if the probe is transferred to the ATS, since it (ATS) is also a probe agency of the state government. Mundargi further said that in case the HC decides against the transfer of the probe to the ATS then the government was willing to change the entire composition of the SIT.
To this justice Dere asked: “What purpose will that serve though? Ultimately, your aim should also be to go to the root of the matter.”
The court also said that if the probe was transferred now then the probe will have to begin afresh. “And if the ATS takes over, again after all these years, when some accused are already in custody, the probe will have to begin afresh,” said Justice Dere.
The court asked Mundargi to check with the concerned officers whether an officer of the ATS could join the current SIT. “That should serve the purpose,” said the court.
Nevagi argued that the ATS had made headway in the probe into the killings of Pansare, rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi, and journalist Gauri Lankesh, by arresting some men in 2020 in the Aurangabad arms haul case. The family has been claiming that there is a common link between the four murders.
In the 2020 case, the Maharashtra ATS arrested Vaibhav Raut, Sharad Kalaskar and Sudhanwa Gondhalekar.
During interrogation in Dabholkar case, Kalsakar revealed to the ATS that the absconding accused Sachin Andure and Vinay Pawar were the alleged shooters in the Pansare case.
Mundargi countered that even they have said that there is common thread in these murders and that the shooters are yet to be traced.
“It is also our case that there’s a common thread among all these cases. He (Nevagi) is blaming us and the CBI. The shooters identified are yet to be traced,” said Mundargi, adding: “Almost all the investigating agencies in the country, the CBI, NIA, and several state police are after them. This is not the ATS’ failure alone.”