'ATS chief offered us Rs 25 lakh to confess'

Jan 22, 2014, 07:53 IST | Salil Urunkar

Alleged illegal arms dealer Manish Nagori and aide Vikas Khandelwal told a Pune court that Rakesh Maria had asked them to own up to the crime, saying there was huge political pressure on him to solve the case

Manish Nagori and his associate Vikas Khandelwal had their day in court, and they ensured it was a memorable one. As reported by MiD DAY yesterday (‘150 days later cops close inon Dabholkar killers, with arrest of 2 aides’), the duo, who have been in police or magisterial custody since August last year for their alleged role in various crimes, were arrested in connection with the murder of anti-superstition activist Dr Narendra Dabholkar.

Startling claims: Manish Nagori and Vikas Khandelwal being taken to court on Tuesday afternoon by Pune Crime Branch officials
Startling claims: Manish Nagori and Vikas Khandelwal being taken to court on Tuesday afternoon by Pune Crime Branch officials

When produced in the court of Judicial Magistrate (First Class) AB Shaikh, the two accused state Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief Rakesh Maria of offering them Rs 25 lakh to plead guilty for the murder. The accused also alleged that they were subjected to narco-analysis and lie detector tests while in police custody earlier.

day in court:  Pune police produced Manish Nagori and Vikas Khandelwal in Shivajinagar court yesterday afternoon. pic/krunal gosavi
Day in court: Pune police produced Manish Nagori and Vikas Khandelwal in Shivajinagar court yesterday afternoon. Pic/Krunal Gosavi

Inspector Atul Sabnis of Pune unit of state ATS and other officials were also present in the courtroom when Nagori and Khandelwal made the charges against Maria. The magistrate, however, remanded Nagori and Khandelwal in police custody till January 28, which Assistant Public Prosecutor Madhav Poul had requested on the grounds that cops have to take control of the motorcycle and pistol used by the perpetrators in the offence and also the motive has to be established.

Duo arrive in court
Nagori and Khandelwal were brought to the court at 2.30 pm by investigating officer assistant commissioner of police (crime) Rajendra Bhamare and his team. When the court asked the suspects whether they had any complaint against police, Nagori and Khandelwal said that they want to make a submission. Meanwhile, their defence counsel BA Aloor also sought permission of the court to speak with Nagori and Khandelwal.

Addressing the court, Nagori alleged that they had been subject to narco-analysis and lie detector tests when they were in custody of ATS at Kalachowki. “We were meted out third degree torture, and Maria offered us Rs 25 lakh to confess to the crime. He had also offered us a lawyer if we agreed to do so. When we refused and asked why we were being made scapegoats in the Dabholkar case, the ATS chief replied that there was tremendous political pressure on him,” Nagori told the court.

Claiming that they were in police custody for 52 days in which different agencies had interrogated them about the Dabholkar murder case, Khandelwal and Nagori said, “Why would we kill Dabholkar? The murder took place at 7.15 am on August 20, 2013, and we were taken into custody at 10.15 am by Mumbra cops at Thane in an extortion case.

If police version is to be believed, did we use helicopter or plane to land in Mumbai?” They demanded that all the police officers who had interrogated them must also undergo narco-analysis and lie detector tests. The duo claimed that the ballistic report, which the police now claim as the basis of their arrest, was shown to them four months ago. The judge did not take the allegations on record.

“Thane police seized a couple of pistols from Nagori and Khandelwal when they were arrested on August 20, 2013. One of those pistols matches the new ballistic report --obtained recently -- about the bullets at the crime scene. We have come to know that Nagori handed over that pistol to Khandelwal. Now we are trying to establish the exact role of Khandelwal and his other accomplices and their location when Dr Dabholkar was murdered. They are trying to mislead the police and others, and there is not an iota of truth in their allegations,” said additional commissioner of police (crime) Shahaji Solunke. Rakesh Maria refused to speak to the media on the matter.

ATS reacts

''Nagori is a big arms dealer, who was active in areas like Pune, Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur. We have seized 20 pistols, 46 rounds and 3 magazines from him. Our investigations revealed that Nagori has sold weapons for Rs 40,000 — Rs 80,000 to several criminals in Maharashtra and other states. One of those seized pistols matches the ballistic fingerprinting of the weapon used in Dabholkar’s murder. We had written a letter to Pune police on November 20, about this report. As far as investigation in the Dabholkar case is concerned, ours was only a supporting role and it ended after we gave Pune police the clues,” a senior officer, who did not wish to come on record, said.

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