The Bombay High Court on Friday said it was "very unhappy" over the pace of progress in the Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare murder cases even as the probe agency CBI informed the court that Scotland Yard has refused to help in the forensic probe on the ground that there was no legal bond between the UK and India for sharing data.
In another development, the CBI submitted in a sealed cover a forensic report from Ahmedabad Forensic Laboratory on ballistic evidence related to the killing of the three rationalists – Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi.
A bench of Justices S C Dharmadhikari and B P Colabawalla said it was "very unhappy" over the tardy progress in the murder probes.
The judges further said there was also no development in the proceedings of trial courts in Pune and Kolhapur which are trying Dabholkar and Pansare murder cases, respectively.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had informed the High Court earlier that it had sent forensic evidence to Scotland Yard to seek its opinion on whether same weapons were used in the murders of Dabholkar and Pansare in Maharashtra and the killing of another rationalist M M Kalburgi in Karnataka.
"Scotland Yard has informed us in writing that no legal agreement existed between the two countries on sharing of forensic data and hence it will not help by conducting a forensic probe into these murder cases," Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh told a division bench hearing petitions filed by the families of the two slain rationalists.
CBI also submitted in a sealed cover a forensic report from Ahmedabad Forensic Laboratory on ballistic evidence related to the killing of the three rationalists. This is the third ballistic report from a forensic lab, the other two being that of labs in Mumbai and Bengaluru.
The CBI, probing Dabholkar's murder, and the Special Investigating Team (SIT) of state CID, probing the killing of Pansare, also submitted reports in separate sealed covers to the high court on the progress made in these two cases.
The judges perused the reports and asked the two investigation agencies not to reveal the contents to anyone, including media, as the probe was still on.
SIT counsel Ashok Mundargi said, "The probe in Pansare killing is on. We have identified two absconding suspects. The chargesheet has been filed and we are investigating further."
On a plea made by the two agencies seeking eight weeks time to conduct further probe, the bench deferred the matter till March 20.
While Dabholkar was murdered in Pune on August 20, 2013, Pansare was shot on February 16, 2015 in Kolhapur. He died on February 20 that year. Prof Kalburgi was murdered on August 30, 2015.
The families of Dabholkar and Pansare on Friday said they were not happy with the progress in probe in the murder cases. "The investigation agencies are very slow and the contents of forensic reports always reach the media first," their lawyer Abhay Nevgi said.
Outside the court after the hearing concluded on Friday, the family members of Dabholkar, son Hamid and daughter Mukta, distributed pamphlets seeking arrest of the wanted accused.
Megha Pansare, daughter-in-law of the slain rationalist Govind Pansare, staged a silent protest demonstration demanding arrest of the wanted accused.
Megha said not much progress had been made in the last two years in the murder cases. However, she refused to comment on the probe being conducted by the investigating agencies.
The judges on Friday came down heavily on the CBI and SIT for slow progress in the investigations into the killing of the two rationalists -- Dabholkar and Pansare.
The bench, which is monitoring the investigations, also cautioned the agencies not to disclose any information about the cases to anyone, particularly to the media saying this would hamper probe.
On an earlier occasion, the bench had noted that delay caused by the probe agency would not only benefit the accused but would also give a bad impression to the society at large.