Two alleged firearm dealers, arrested in connection with the rationalist Narendra Dabholkar murder case, were on Tuesday remanded in police custody till January 28 by a local court here.
Manish Nagori and Vikas Khandelwal, accused of involvement in criminal conspiracy part of the murder, were produced before Judicial Magistrate First Class A B Shaikh with a prosecution plea for 14-day custody for interrogation.
They were taken into custody by Pune police yesterday from a Thane jail where they were lodged in a separate case.
The duo told the court they had nothing to do with the murder and their counsel claimed his clients were offered Rs 25 lakh by Maharashtra ATS to confess their involvement in the crime.
The remand plea was opposed by the defence counsel who contended the duo was being made "scapegoats" due to political pressure on police to crack the widely publicised case.
Public Prosecutor Mahadeo Paul submitted custodial interrogation of the accused was necessary to trace the motorbike used in committing the crime by unidentified gunmen, who shot dead Dabholkar on August 20, 2013 on a city bridge.
"We want to find out the motive behind this crime," he argued.
The prosecution claimed Nagori and Khandelwal were engaged in illegal sale of firearms, and according to the ballistic report, one of the pistols recovered from them (7.65 caliber) matched with the bullets lodged in Dabholkar's body.
Refuting the prosecution contention, defence counsel B A Aloor told the court the accused, who were lodged in the Thane Jail in an extortion case, had already been interrogated by Maharashtra ATS and police for 52 days but they failed to establish their link with the sensational murder.
Both the accused were arrested by Thane police on the same day when the noted social activist was shot dead here.
Later, ATS sleuths, along with Pune police, had interrogated them to find out if they were involved in the crime but no arrests were made then.
Defence counsel Aloor alleged Maharashtra ATS chief Rakesh Maria had offered Rs 25 lakh to the accused during their interrogation in Thane in order to obtain a confessional statement from them in the case, even though Nagori and Khandelwal were not present in Pune on the day of crime.
When contracted, a top ATS officer rubbished the allegation levelled against the anti-terror agency.
Stating that investigating agencies had miserably failed to crack the case that had sent shock waves in the country, the defence counsel alleged Maharashtra Home Minister (R R Patil) had asked police to solve the case "by hook or crook" in view of the mounting pressure from all quarters.
Both Nagori and Khandelwal, when asked by the Magistrate to make a statement, repeated the allegation that they had been offered Rs 25 lakh to confess their involvement in the Dabholkar murder by ATS under duress.
Nagori told the Magistrate they had been subjected to all kinds of investigations, including lie detector test, but the investigators could not find anything to link them to the crime.
"We have nothing to do with the Dabholkar case. Our arrests have been made under political pressure. Let public know about the findings of narco test," the accused told the court, adding while in jail they were subjected to torture and "third degree" treatment by police to extract confession.
Investigating Officer Assistant Police Commissioner, Rajendra Bhamre, while seeking police custody for the accused, said it was necessary to know from them about the bike used by Dabholkar's assailants and also their accomplices in the case.
The Magistrate, after hearing both sides, remanded the duo to police custody till January 28.