A Pune court on Friday granted bail to three accused in the killing of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar after the investigating agency, CBI failed to file its charges within the stipulated 90-day time-frame.
The Pune Sessions Court allowed bail to Amil Kale, Rajesh Bangera and Amit Digvekar -- all of whom are also accused in the murders of Bengaluru journalist Gauri Lankesh, Kannada author MM Kalburgi and senior Communist leader Govind Pansare.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had taken Kale into custody last September for the Dabholkar killing after he was arrested in May by the Karnataka Police for the Lankesh murder.
However, they may not walk out free immediately in the case since they are in judicial custody in connection with the Lankesh and Pansare killings.
The development came after the accused, through their lawyer DR Chandel, filed a bail plea on Thursday seeking relief as the CBI had not sought extension of the time-limit to file supplementary charges against them under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
Incidentally, last Tuesday (December 11), the Supreme Court had said the CBI could investigate the four murders if "a common thread" is found in all the crimes, committed in Maharashtra and Karnataka.
While Narendra Dabholkar was shot dead on August 20, 2013 in Maharashtra's Pune, Govind Pansare was shot on February 16, 2015 and died on February 20 in Maharashtra's Kolhapur, MM Kalburgi was killed in Dharwad, Karnataka on August 30, 2015 and Lankesh was shot dead on September 5, 2017 in Karnataka capital Bengaluru.
Maharashtra Congress spokesman Sachin Sawant sharply criticised the developments, terming it as "the government's will" that the three accused were granted bail in the Dabholkar case.
"It must be remembered that they were arrested by the efforts of the Karnataka Police Special Investigating Team... The CBI never managed to reach them, the CBI lawyer remained absent from the court for two days and now the agency has failed to even file the charge-sheet on time," Mr Sawant said.