The Bombay High Court on Thursday sought to know from Maharashtra government if it has decided to seek a CBI probe in the Govind Pansare murder case as claimed by the lawyer of family of the slain activist, even as the prosecutor said he has no such instruction so far.
The high court also came down heavily on the CID and the CBI, probing the Pansare and rationalist Narendra Dabholkar murder cases respectively, for slow progress.
The Pansare family had approached the Maharashtra government seeking CBI probe in the matter and on Wednesday the state government consented, lawyer Abhay Nevgi, representing the family of the slain communist leader, informed HC bench of Justices S C Dharmadhikari and Shalini Phansalkar Joshi.
However, Public Prosecutor Sandeep Shinde told the court that he does not have any instruction from the government regarding this.
To this, the high court directed Shinde to find out if the government has taken a decision to refer the probe to CBI, and if it has done so, then tell the court the reasons behind it.
The bench, which is hearing a bunch of petitions filed by the families of Dabholkar and Pansare seeking monitoring by HC in both the murder probes, later adjourned the matter for six weeks.
"Now that the CBI has arrested someone in the Narendra Dabholkar murder case, Pansare's family also wants CBI to probe their case and the state government is also promptly saying OK let it go...let it be off my shoulder... one headache gone," the HC said.
Notably, the CBI had recently arrested Sanatan Sanstha activist Virendra Tawde from Navi Mumbai in connection with the murder of anti-superstition crusader Dabholkar.
While Dabholkar was killed in August 2013, Pansare was shot on February 16, 2015 in Kolhapur. The CBI and CID have been submitting periodical progress reports to HC.
The CBI had earlier said it was probing the role of right wing organisation Sanatan Sanstha in the murder.
The high court, after perusing the reports submitted by both CBI and CID with regard to the progress of probe in both the murder cases, said it was not completely satisfied with the pace of investigations.
"We are not impressed by these reports. The agencies ought to be careful and sensitive as murder cases need to be initiated and concluded bearing in mind that it is a crime against the society. Two eminent individuals have lost their lives on account of their work and ideology, hence at stake here is a larger interest of freedom of speech, expression and views," the high court observed.
The high court, while adjourning the matter for six weeks, asked the CBI to make all endeavour to obtain reports immediately
from forensic science laboratory in Scotland, where the agency has sent bullets and empty cartridges recovered from the body of another slain rationalist M M Kalburgi.
"Expedite the proceedings and try obtaining the reports immediately," the bench said.
The court also noted that since a month both the agencies have been dragging their feet in the probe which, it said, was very "juvenile and childish".
Public Prosecutor Shinde informed the court that the CID has sought custody of the person arrested by CBI in the Dabholkar case.
To this the court said, "Didn't you know about this person before and the organisation with which he is affiliated. It is very shameful that officers instead of investigation ask the family members who they suspect. This needs to stop."
The high court also lambasted the CBI for divulging details regarding the probe to the media.
"Your (CBI) progress report is nothing but news reports. All this is already there in the public domain. How does media come to know about the identity of witnesses in the case and where the agency is going to conduct searches. Everything is revealed to the media," the court pointed out.
"You will be ruining the entire probe if you conduct yourself in this fashion. Absconding accused in the case must be getting details pertaining to the probe from the media. Hats off to CBI," the HC further observed.
"All this may seem trivial now, but they are very important lacunae when the trial is conducted. Tomorrow who is going to protect the witnesses and family members who are speaking freely to media these days. Some restraint and patience is required by the family members. This cheap publicity for everything is disgusting and it affects fair investigation and trial," it said.
The court warned that it will not hesitate to direct disciplinary action against the concerned officer/s revealing investigation details to the media and will put him in jail.
The matter has now been adjourned for six weeks, by when both the probing agencies will have to submit further progress reports.