Samast Adhivakta Maharashtra held a protest outside Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh on Tuesday to voice against the arrest of advocate Sanjeev Punalekar. They demanded to release him. The Central Bureau of Investigation had arrested advocate Sanjeev Punalekar in connection with the murder of Pune based rationalist Narendra Dabholkar. Punalekar has been the counsel for the right-wing outfit Sanatan Sanstha. Advocates association stated that investigating agencies have totally failed in probing the Dr. Narendra Dabholkar murder case. They stated that the court has admonished investigating agencies time and again on this issue in quite harsh words. Therefore, they are making Punalekar and others scapegoat to cover their failure. Advocate Bharadwaj Chaudhari, advocate Suresh Kulkarni, and advocate Vivek Bhave of Sambhajinagar Bench of High Court and advocate Santosh Mahamuni of Bombay High Court were present on this occasion.
Advocate Balakrishnan of Bombay High Court said, “The arrest of Punalekar by CBI in an unjust manner has created displeasure amongst advocates in Maharashtra and other states. The act is like throttling of all legal practitioners.”
Supreme Court advocate Bharadwaj Chaudhari said that there seems to be something fishy in the arrest of advocate Punalekar by CBI. He stated, “After spending a long time in CBI’s police custody the accused Sharad Kalaskar had confessed before the Karnataka Police in October 2018 which was later withdrawn by him, then how could advocate Punalekar be arrested? It is like throttling of legal rights of advocates.”
Advocate Vivek Bhave said that the arrest of advocate Punalekar after eight months since the accused gave confession itself is creating doubt over the investigations. He said, “The investigation agencies have not been able to produce any concrete evidence even after 15 days since the arrest of Punalekar. Police claim that weapons were destroyed at certain places but these agencies have not even tried to search for those weapons. When it has not been proved that those weapons were used for committing the crime, still it is unfair to accuse Punalekar of assisting in destroying such weapons.”
Advocate Santosh Mahamuni of Bombay High Court said that the discussion held between the accused and his advocate is considered to be sensitive and secretive in nature. He said, “It is neither recorded nor discussed openly. Despite this, advocate Punalekar has been arrested based on the point discussed by Sharad Kalaskar and Punalekar. In the future, an accused and advocate could be falsely threatened that he had given confession. It is a breach of the legal right conferred by the judicial system to advocates as ‘Officer of the Court’.”
Advocate Suresh Kulkarni said that advocates from Goa, Karnataka, and Pune had held press conferences to express their stand on condemning the unjust arrest of advocate Punalekar. Advocates from all over India also came together and held meetings and representations have been submitted to the Maharashtra and Goa Bar Council.
Punalekar is the fourth arrest made by CBI in the case. The investigating agency had stated that Punalekar had asked Sharad Kalaskar one of the shooters of Dabholkar to destroy the weapons.
Dabholkar was killed outside his residence on August 20, 2013. He was murdered by two bike-borne assailants while he was on a morning walk on Omkareshwar bridge in Pune. The Pune city police had registered a case of murder. Initially, the case was investigated by the crime branch, but later it was transferred to the CBI in May 2014. The central agency had filed chargesheet against two more Sanatan Sanstha members Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar as assailants in the case. As per the chargesheet, the conspiracy to kill Dabholkar was hatched due to ideological differences between the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS) formed by Dabholkar and Hindu Janajagruti Samiti.