Rejecting Maharashtra police's investigation, the Central Bureau of Investigation has attributed Malegaon Additional Collector Yashwant Sonawane's gruesome murder to "past enmity".
Sonawane, according to the CBI chargesheet, was involved in 'extortion and bribery' and had several complaints pending against him before the state anti-corruption bureau.
For the initial four months since Sonawane's murder in January, Maharashta police had claimed that he was on his regular inspection and had made a surprise stopover at Sagar dhaba in nearby Dhondalwadi, 'considered the hub of his illegal trade', and found the men of Popat Shinde, a history-sheeter for pilferage offences, adulterating kerosene.
Shinde, too had suffered serious injuries in the altercation and eventually had succumbed to his injuries. Rejecting the state police's claim, the CBI in the chargesheet mentions that Sonawane had ventured out with a "motive".
"He was murdered in an altercation that is a fact. But the fight was old. Several complaints to that effect were made to the police and the ACB department. According to our investigations, the accused had acted under fit of rage after been fed up with Sonawane's demands," said a senior CBI official.
Acting on the witness statements recorded over a period of nine months, the CBI has come to the conclusion that Sonawane had in past demanded bribe from Shinde to rescue his tanker that was seized in an earlier raid.
"This encounter too would have been of a similar nature had Shinde paid Sonawane the money. But fed up of the demands, Shinde got into an argument, later dousing Sonawane with kerosene and setting him ablaze," said an official under the condition of anonymity.
In the murder chargsheet filed before the judicial magistrate's court at Manmad, the CBI has charged Rajendra Shirsat, Machhindra Suradkar, Ajay Sonawane, Habbani Khan Rabbani, Imran Khan and Kaushik Altaf Shaikh with several sections of the Indian Penal Code for murder, attacking a government servant and conspiracy.
Same chargesheet was filed later before the Nashik juvenile court against Shinde's minor son Kunal. "Kunal, who was actively involved in his father's business, was present at the spot and had participated in the murder," the chargesheet claims.
Similarly, the CBI filed two sets of chargesheets under the Essential Commodity Act before the Manmad magistrate and Nashik juvenile court for black marketing and smuggling of essential commodity. "Though, role has been attributed to Shinde in the case, his name had been dropped in the chargsheet," said the officer.
The accused, who were initially tried under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, have not been charged under the act in this chargsheet.
"The Bombay high court has stayed the process. We have not investigated the case under the MCOCA act. Only after the HC lifts the stay, will the CBI further investigate in those lines," a senior officer claimed.
According to the FIR, the incident is believed to have happened after 1 pm on January 25. Sonawane had stopped a vehicle on his way back from an official visit to Panewadi, after he spotted "some suspicious activity" behind a dhaba.
According to the prosecution, a scuffle broke between Popat and Sonawane, after which the accused hit the additional collector with an iron rod.
Soon, more members of Shinde family and accomplices joined them in beating Sonawane. His driver and personal assistant left the scene with the additional collector's official car to the nearest police station.