Even though five years have passed since anti-superstition crusader and rationalist Narendra Dabholkar was shot dead during a morning walk on 20 August 2013, the Central Bureau of Investigation appears to have failed to find any conclusive evidence or the whereabouts of the accused in the case.
The same appears to be true in the case of Communist leader Govind Pansare, who was shot at in Kolhapur in 2015, as well with the Special Investigation Team of Maharashtra Police's Criminal Investigations Department appointed to investigate the murder conceding before the Bombay High Court that there was little hope now of achieving anything substantial from any further field probe.
"Field probe including raids at possible hiding places will not lead to anything anymore. Our only hope is scientific probe and evidence from call detail records, forensics etc," said senior advocate Ashok Mundargi, counsel for the state government and the SIT.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, representing the CBI probing Dabholkar's killing, echoed the same view.
The lawyers view irked the bench of Justices SC Dharamadhikari and Bharati Dangre, which rapped the two investigation agencies for their failure to apprehend the culprits in the two cases. The bench was hearing pleas by the kin of Dabholkar and Pansare. The two justices had sought a court-monitored probe into the killings.
"How do we then take the case to its logical conclusion?" the bench asked.
"Can we allow for the case to reach a dead-end when similar crimes are on the rise?" it asked.
The bench said while it was not critical so far of the ongoing probes by the two agencies, it could not allow them to leave everything to the mere hope that the absconding accused persons in the two cases, tired of hiding or fearing threat to their lives, would turn themselves in one day.
"Why don't you take steps to completely strangulate the organisational backing that the accused persons must be receiving?" the bench asked.
It also directed the agencies to seek the help of expert interrogators in the case.
The bench warned that if the agencies failed to make any progress by the next date of hearing, it would be constrained to summon the senior officials concerned.
Amid a nation-wide outrage over the Kathua rape-cum-murder and the Unnao rape cases, the bench observed that India's image today has taken a beating with a growing perception abroad that it's a country of crimes and rapes and the liberal and secular people are not safe here.
It also said that the rest of the world was now hesitant to engage with India over educational or cultural issues.
"It is unfortunate that today, the image of the country is such that those living abroad feel only crimes and rapes happen in India.
"Anywhere we go (outside of India), we have to answer a barrage of questions. People are under the impression that liberal, open-minded and secular people cannot be safe in India and that they are bound to be attacked. The image of India is suffering due to the acts of a few people," the bench said.
"No international body wants to be a part of our educational and cultural projects. Investors show interest at first but pull back later on. We are very sorry to see this. Do we (India) want to live in a cocoon?" the bench asked.
"No institution in the country, including the judiciary, is spared from this," it said.
The high court had last year observed that the killings of Dabholkar and Pansare were "well planned" and the perpetrators had an organisational backup.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Apr 20, 2018 14:16:28 IST