A Delhi-based panch witness who stayed in Gadchiroli for about a fortnight to depose in the case of Delhi University professor G N Saibaba being heard at Gadchiroli court has became a matter of cross-examination by the defence that raised some curious questions about how he remained in Gadchiroli that long forgoing his livelihood back home.
The panch witness, a barber purportedly staying close to Saibaba’s residence in Delhi, had come to Gadchiroli on December 3 to depose as panch witness for the search and seizure operation conducted by Gadchiroli police in September 12, 2013. He stayed on in Gadchiroli through two depositions on December 5 and December 15 and 16 before returning to Delhi.
According to media reports, Defence lawyer Surendra Gadling, during hearing wondered as to how the witness could afford to stay back for about two weeks in Gadchiroli foregoing his livelihood in Delhi. During cross-examination, the witness reportedly faltered, first saying he lived in various foodstalls outside the court and later saying he visited police guesthouse. This became a point of questioning by the defence lawyer, who, according to reports, suspected the witness may have been tutored by the police.
He also faltered on another count when he said “yes” on being asked by the defence lawyer if he was inside Saibaba’s house when Saibaba was out during the seizure operation.
When contacted, Gadling refused to confirm if he had made the “tutoring of witness” point in connection with the panch witness’ extended stay in Gadchiroli. “Mujhe utna abhi yad nahi (I don’t remember so much now),” he told The Indian Express. He, however, said, “Yes, I brought certain things on record”, when asked if the witness changed his version on where he stayed over the fortnight.
Prosecution lawyer Prashant Sathianathan said, “the witness stayed firm on his statements and it is his personal matter if and why he chose to stay in Gadchiroli for that period.”