Eight years on, Govind Pansare murder trial is yet to begin
‘Now that the investigation in the case has been shifted to the ATS, we expect it to be expedited, and that the agency reaches the mastermind and those who are absconding,’ says family
It has been eight years since rationalist and anti-superstition activist Govind Pansare was murdered. However, the trial into his killing has still not begun. “It is very important for the guilty to be punished as violence has increased in the society,” his daughter-in-law and social activist Megha Pansare said.
On February 16, 2015, the 82-year-old author of Chhatrapati Shivaji’s biography was shot five times while returning home from a morning walk with his wife in Kolhapur. He died four days later.
Of the accused, Virendra Tawde (also accused in the Narendra Dabholkar murder case), and Sameer Gaikwad, were arrested but are out on bail. Sachin Andure, Amit Baddi, Vasudev Suryawanshi, Bharat Kurane, Amit Degvekar, Sharad Kalaskar and Ganesh Miskin are in jail. Amol Kale and Amit Degwekar, arrested in the Pansare case, are also accused in the journalist Gauri Lankesh murder case. Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar, believed to be the main shooters, absconding.
On January 10, 2023 a special court in Kolhapur framed charges against the accused, who are members of Sanatan Sanstha, a Hindu extremist group, under Sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code, and different provisions of the Arms Act.
“The next date is on February 20, when I will be giving a list of witnesses to court who I want to examine from the consolidated list of witnesses I have already given. I will ask the court to summon witnesses to them. We will start the recording of the evidence soon. We will begin the trial, and the investigation by the ATS (Anti Terrorism Squad) will be carried out simultaneously,” Special Public Prosecutor Harshad Nimbalkar said.
On August 3, 2022, on a plea filed by the Pansare family, the Bombay High Court transferred the investigation into the murder from a Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted by the Maharashtra Government to the ATS. “Handing over of the investigation to the ATS is a positive step in the case and I am hopeful that the agency will arrest the absconding shooters for the trial to begin in a month,” advocate Abhay Nevgi, appearing for the Pansare family in court, said.
We are not satisfied with the pace of the case as the trial has still not begun. We were expecting, now that charges are framed against the accused, the trial will begin. However, the pace is very slow. Now that the investigation in the case has been shifted to the ATS, we expect it to be expedited, and that the agency reaches the mastermind and those who are absconding. We hope that the leads by ATS will be incorporated in the charge-sheet as the case is being monitored by the High Court,” Pansare’s daughter-in-law, Megha Pansare, said
“As a social activist, I have a serious observation that the forces and the organisations which are accused in the case have become very strong and aggressive, and violence has increased in the society. So it is very important to punish these people because there is no other way to control them,” she added.