The Bombay High Court on Thursday questioned the Chief Minister of Maharashtra over the slow progress in the probe regarding the murder of Govind Pansare, a Communist Party of India (CPI) member and activist who was shot by assailants riding a motorcycle on February 16, 2015. "What is the Chief Minister doing? You hold 11 portfolios, including Home but do not seem to find time to take stock of the case and remove obstacles in the probe. Chief Ministers must realise that they do not belong to any particular party but are leaders of the state. It is a sovereign function that cannot be outsourced," the court asked.
A division bench of Justice SC Dharmadhikari and Justice BP Colabawalla was hearing petitions filed by family members of both Pansare and rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, the latter a Pune-based anti-superstition activist who was shot dead while on a morning walk in August 2013.
The court has consistently noted its disappointment at the slow progress in both these cases. While the CBI is investigating the Dabholkar case, the State CID is conducting the probe in Pansare's case. Senior Advocate Ashok Mundargi appeared on behalf of the state CID and submitted that the government has increased the reward for absconding accused in Pansare's case from Rs.10 lakh to Rs.50 lakh.
The court was not pleased with this submission: "This is a kneejerk reaction. Your perception itself is faulty. Do you think people will take you to the accused? For all you know, people might be getting paid more for keeping quiet."
The court also noted that if the state CID would not have coordinated with the Karnataka police in the Gauri Lankesh murder case, then they would have remained clueless. CBI counsel ASG Anil Singh submitted that Dabholkar's shooters had been identified and charge sheet has been filed. He also said some additional information has been received from the Karnataka police, for which the agency would require some time to work on.
Advocate Abhay Nevagi appeared on behalf of the petitioner families. He referred to the murders of Gauri Lankesh, MM Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar, and said 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 this information.
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 which said that some weapons seized from them were used in these murders.
The court has now posted the matter for hearing on April 26.