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One year on, lack of evidence plagues Dabholkar murder probe

The lack of clear CCTV footage that hampered the Pune police’s probe continues to weigh down the CBI, which took over the case earlier this year

A year has passed since anti-superstition crusader Narendra Dabholkar was shot dead at the Maharshi Shinde bridge in Narayan Peth on the morning of August 20, 2013, and the Pune crime branch’s failure to nab those responsible led to the case being handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) earlier this year.

Narendra Dabholkar
A year since the killing of Dabholkar, the investigations seem to continue to hinge on the CCTV footage, from which very poor-quality  images of the suspects have been retrieved so far. File pic

However, it seems unlikely that the CBI will make a breakthrough any time soon, as crucial evidence such as clear CCTV footage of the incident is still out of reach.

After Dabholkar’s assassination, based on ballistic reports, the Pune police arrested illegal arms dealer Manish Nagori and his accomplice Vikas Khandelwal on charges of supplying weapons to the suspects.

However, the duo was released on bail on grounds that the police had failed to submit the chargesheet against them in the stipulated time period of 90 days.

But a bigger roadblock for the case was the police’s inability to get a clearer look at the suspects faces, making it hard to identify and look for them.

A senior officer from the Pune Crime Branch (which was the original investigating agency in the case) said, “We had collected CCTV footage from about 110 cameras in and around the area where Dabholkar was shot dead by the suspects. The suspects were not clearly seen in this footage and hence it was sent to a lab in London for image processing and quality enhancement.

These enhanced images would have been useful to trace the suspects and also to gather particulars of their movement.”
However, the team failed to procure the clearer footage despite repeated requests sent to the lab over the past year. “For the past year we did not receive any communication from the lab about the footage,” said the officer.

Not promising
Sources privy to the investigation process claim that the CBI team is also dependent on the same information and material that was collected and used by the Pune police team, which does not paint a very promising outcome.

The previous investigating officer from Pune Crime Branch, Assistant Commissioner of Police (Crime I) Rajendra Bhamare refused to comment. The Bombay High Court had transferred the Dabholkar murder case to the CBI in May 2014.

The CBI has since lodged a fresh FIR at Mumbai last month. Superintendent of Police (CBI) Ramesh Gir and his team is currently investigating the Dabholkar case, and they have already inspected the crime scene and have taken possession of the case documents from the Pune police.

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