A special court on Tuesday directed that advocate Sanjeev Punalekar, counsel for fringe right-wing outfit Sanatan Sanstha; and his aide, Vikram Bhave, be sent to judicial custody in connection with the murder of eminent rationalist Narendra Dabholkar.Mr. Punalekar and Mr. Bhave, who were first arrested by the CBI on May 26, were produced before court on Tuesday on expiry of their CBI custody.The court of additional sessions judge R.M. Pande denied the CBI’s plea seeking a further extension of the custody of the accused. It observed that the CBI did not make any fresh progress in the investigation when the accused were in custody.Mr. Punalekar and Mr. Bhave have been alleged by the investigating agency to have participated in the conspiracy to murder Dabholkar, in destruction of evidence and in aiding and abetting Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar, named as the assailants of the late rationalist.Special Public Prosecutor Prakash Suryavanshi argued for a 14-day custodial extension, saying the CBI needed time to analySe the data retrieved from Mr. Punalekar’s laptop and mobile phone seized during his arrest.Mr. Suryavanshi submitted that Mr. Punalekar harboured one of the accused Sanstha members in the 2009 Madgaon blast in Goa. He said the CBI needed more time to probe how Mr. Bhave conducted the reconnaissance before Dabholkar’s murder and interrogate him to uncover details of the getaway motorbike used by the alleged two shooters.Arguing against the CBI’s plea, defence counsel Virendra Ichalkaranjikar said the CBI’s allegation against Mr. Punalekar of participating in the murder conspiracy was “not tenable.”“The CBI claims that Mr. Punalekar had advised alleged shooter Sahard Kalaskar in June 2018 to destroy the pistol used in a crime that occurred in 2013. This vague, ‘post-incident’ allegation does not hold water. Furthermore, despite seizing advocate Mr. Punalekar’s laptop and mobile on May 27, the CBI has made no progress to retrieve data,” he said.In September last, while seeking an extension of Kalaskar’s custody, the CBI told the court that in July 2018, the accused dismantled four country-made pistols and thrown them in the creeks of Greater Mumbai and Thane. It also suggested that one of the firearms could be the weapon used to kill Dabholkar.In his statement to the CBI last year, Kalaskar allegedly said that Mr. Punalekar, known for his defamatory statements against Dabholkar, had asked him to destroy the weapons.According to the CBI, Kalaskar further revealed that it was the Thane-based Mr. Bhave who planned the reconnaissance, pointed Dabholkar to the assailants and even planned the getaway route for the shooters after the crime.Besides the arrests of Andure, Kalaskar and Dr. Virendra Tawde – said to be the alleged mastermind of the murders of Dabholkar and veteran Communist leader Govind Pansare – the CBI has arrested Amol Kale, Amit Digvekar and Rajesh Bangera in connection with the conspiracy to kill the two rationalist-thinkers.Kale, Digvekar and Bangera, who were granted default bail in December last in the Dabholkar case, are presently incarcerated in a Bengaluru jail for their roles in the killing of activist-journalist Gauri Lankesh.