saibaba-mainSaibaba case: Questions raised over stay of witness in Gadchiroli

Soumittra S Bose | Feb 3, 2016, 03.01 AM IST


NagpurA Delhi-based barber, who has been a panch witness for the prosecution, had to spend around two weeks in Gadchiroli to depose before the trial court in district where the alleged Naxal sympathizer Professor GN Saibaba’s trial is underway. The changing version of the witness before the trial court regarding his stay in Gadchiroli during extreme winter weather after coming all the way from Delhi, has now been questioned by the Saibaba’s counsel.

The episode also underlined the need to for strong witness protection programme that the high court has already pointed out to the state government. Apart from cold, Gadchiroli also is a Naxal stronghold and marked as affected by falciparum malaria. The barber, who is learnt to have landed in Gadchiroli on December 3 last year, had initially claimed to have spent two weeks in hutments along the roads in the district while waiting for appearances before the court that had a gap of around 11 days. The Delhi-resident had even told the court during cross-examination that he had to frequently shift from one hutment to another.

After Saibaba’s counsels raised doubts regarding the witness’s version, he changed his statement claiming to have remained with the police while waiting for the date of hearing to approach. Saibaba’s counsels, Surendra Gadling and Jagdish Meshram, objected to prosecution’s unethical tutoring of the witnesses for deposing in their favour to secure conviction.

Sources said the Delhi-based barber deposed before the court for the first time on December 5 when being examined by the prosecution’s counsel seeking information on his role as a panch witness during polices’ seizure activities at Saibaba’s place in the Delhi university campus. The barber’s shop is learnt to be located close to professor’s residence and that made him an automatic choice for the police to make him a witness. He had to depose for the second time on December 15 and also on the following day when he was cross examined by the defence counsels regarding his role as panch witness and also regarding his prolonged stay in the district.

Gadling and Meshram now have raised question on the propriety of the situation in which an outstation witness was made to stay away from family and livelihood for two weeks to depose before the court in support of the prosecution. Gadling said prosecution should not go such an extent to their prove their case at the cost of an individual’s happiness. “The witness said he was staying at hutments that was highly questionable and also unbelievable during the winter season amid mosquitoes. On the other hand, if he was hosted by police then they must be tutoring him for their convenience,” said Gadling.

Inspector general of police, Nagpur range, Ravindra Kadam, also holding additional charge of DIG police (Naxal range), said the issue should be left for the court to decide. “The witness must have come on his own and also deposed before the court what he had observed during seizure. There is no foul play,” he said.