Harish Dulani, a purportedly missing key witness in alleged chinkara (Indian Gazelle) and blackbuck poaching cases involving actor Salman Khan in Jodhpur, appeared before mediapersons Wednesday asserting that he stands by his statements.
“I have said what I wanted to say in courts. I was a driver with them for a week. I was threatened and hence I went out (of Jodhpur). I just need protection…I said what I wanted to say in courts, now I don’t want to comment on it. Yes, I stand by my statement and if court summons me, I will go. When was I missing?” Dulani said.
It was during the probe into the alleged blackbuck poaching case of October 1998 that Dulani informed the Forest Department of two cases of alleged chinkara poaching, on September 26 and 28 in the same year. Subsequently, Dulani recorded his statement before a magistrate under Section 164 of CrPC. Eventually, Salman was convicted by a lower court in 2006 in the two chinkara cases, but this was overturned by the High Court in its judgment Monday.
While doing so, the High Court pointed out several deficiencies in the statement recorded by Dulani and deconstructed, bit by bit, the case made out against Salman through Dulani’s statement. In his statement before magistrate, Dulani had claimed that he was the driver of the gypsy, but it was being driven by Salman Khan at the time of the alleged poaching.
The court, however, termed his statement recorded before magistrate as “highly unreliable” and “recorded while in custody of Forest Department.”
It said that such a statement is always doubtful and “one wonders if that was the reason why Harish Dulani did not come back to record his statement in this case. In fact, a doubt is created as to whether Harish Dulani was actually an eyewitness?” It also observed that as many as three FIRs were registered based on his statement.
The court said that in the alleged chinkara poaching case of September 26, 1998, “he (Dulani) never appeared in the witness box and nor was examined”, but appeared briefly in the second case of September 28. He was produced by the prosecution on January 24, 2002, in this case, but did not reappear, and his cross-examination remained incomplete.
The prosecution claimed that it had made attempts over the next few years to summon Dulani, but the court did not agree that every possible effort was made, saying that the petitioner, Salman Khan, gave several evidences on Dulani’s whereabouts.
It also said that “the accused moved every possible application before the trial court to ensure that Harish Dulani was produced for cross-examination, but Harish Dulani was or himself kept away for obvious reasons.”
“The argument that Harish Dulani did not appear because of the threat perception, too, is totally misconceived and false on the face of it,” the court said.
Along with Salman there were other locals who were co-accused, and the court said: “Surprisingly, he turned hostile qua all other accused…except Salman Khan. Still, the threat is stated to be at the behest of Salman Khan. The conduct of Harish Dulani shows a threat perception, if at all, on behalf of someone else.”