Pune court frames charges in Dabholkar murder case; all 5 accused plead not guilty

  • | Wednesday | 15th September, 2021

Pune, Sep 15 (PTI) A special court in Pune on Wednesday framed charges against five accused, four of them under anti-terror Act UAPA, in the 2013 murder case of anti-superstition activist Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, and all of them pleaded not guilty.Dabholkar (67), who headed the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti, an outfit fighting superstition, was shot dead in Pune on August 20, 2013, allegedly by members of a right-wing extremist group. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is conducting a probe into the case which was earlier with the Pune police.A criminal trial starts once charges are framed.On Wednesday, Additional Sessions Judge S R Navandar (special judge for UAPA cases) asked the five accused - Virendra Sinh Tawde, Sachin Andure, Sharad Kalaskar, Sanjeev Punalekar and Vikram Bhave - if they wanted to plead guilty to charges laid against them, to which all of them replied in the negative.Tawde, Kalaskar and Andure, who appeared via video-conferencing from their respective jails, sought more time from the court to discuss the matter of framing charges with their lawyers.The other two accused - advocate Punalekar and Bhave - appeared in the court in-person. Punalekar and Bhave are currently out on bail.One of the defence counsels, Virendra Ichalkaranjikar who represents Tawde, told the court that his client had some apprehensions after he spoke to him about the framing of charges. "According to him (Tawde), why it is being done so fast. It is his apprehension," Ichalkaranjikar told the court.To this, the court said the process of framing charges is being expedited in the interest of the accused.Kalaskar told the court he is in a state of "confusion" and "feeling pressured" the way charges are being framed suddenly.The court said even if he pleads guilty in the court, the trial will go on."Even if you plead guilty, the trial will be held," Judge Navandar told the accused, rejecting the request to defer the framing of charges.The judge told all the accused that even after the charges are framed, the trial will not start immediately."All the accused will get time to speak to their lawyers over documents produced by the prosecution," he observed.Tawde said he could talk to his lawyer just 24 hours ago where he explained to him the process of framing charges."After my communication with my lawyer, some doubts and questions have arisen in my mind and I am also in shock. I would like to bring these doubts and questions to the court"s notice. I request the court to give me some time," Tawde pleaded.Judge Navandar, however, rejected the pleas of the accused, stating both prosecution and defence have already completed their arguments over the draft charges.He said the court has already passed an order about framing of charges so there is no room for any argument on this issue."Sufficient time will be given to all the accused before the actual trial begins. Even if all the issues raised by the accused are to be considered, no more extension can be given," the judge said.After the accused pleaded not guilty, the court framed charges against Tawde, Andure, Kalaskar and Bhave under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 302 (murder), 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy), 34 (common intention), relevant sections of the Arms Act and section 16 of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) (punishment for terrorist act).Besides, charges were framed against Punalekar under IPC section 201 (causing disappearance of evidence or giving false inform to screen offender).Prakash Salsingikar, one of the defence counsels, said he sought that the trial be done in a physical mode where all the accused are present in-person in the court during proceedings."Upon which, the court said even it wants the trial to be conducted in a physical manner. However, the court said due to COVID-19 in-person trial may be difficult, but it will make all possible efforts to look for alternate means to conduct the trial," he said.CBI lawyer and special public prosecutor Prakash Suryavanshi later said that further proceedings related to the trial have been scheduled on September 30.The court also ordered the prison department to transfer Kalaskar and Andure to Yerawada jail in Pune from Mumbai"s Arthur Road Jail and Aurangabad jail, respectively, for convenience of the accused during the trial. Tawde is already lodged in Yerawada jail. PTI SPK GK RSY RSY

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