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Dabholkar murder case: Panch witness denies statement attributed to him in CBI chargesheet

Marne, a resident of F C Road, runs a Chinese food business and is also a member of the 'peace committee' of the Deccan police station. He deposed as a witness before Special Judge S R Navandar on Friday.

During his cross-examination before a special court in Pune on Friday, a panch witness in the Dr Narendra Dabholkar murder case denied giving any statement to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

In its chargesheet filed before the court, the CBI had attached a statement bearing the name, address and phone number of the witness, Shyam Nivrutti Marne.

The statement — dated July 4, 2014 and signed by Deputy Superintendent of Police D S Chauhan, CBI, SCB, Mumbai — mentions that Marne told the agency that he had signed the panchanama papers on August 21, 2013, but put the date as August 20, 2013.

Marne, a resident of F C Road, runs a Chinese food business and is also a member of the ‘peace committee’ of the Deccan police station. He deposed as a witness before Special Judge S R Navandar on Friday.

During his chief examination by CBI lawyer Prakash Suryawanshi, Marne told the court that he was called by Senior Police Inspector Joshi of the Deccan police station on August 20, 2013, hours after Dr Dabholkar was shot dead on Omkareshwar bridge that day.

Marne said police asked him to be the panch witness. He said police showed him the spot of the crime, a pair of chappals, two live and two empty cartridges and other articles, which were then sealed in plastic bags. Marne said he signed the sealed articles and panchanama papers prepared by the police on the same day.

But as per the statement attributed to Marne in the chargesheet filed by the CBI, he did not visit the spot on the day of the murder, but was instead called to the Deccan police station the next day, August 21, 2013, when another panch witness, Rahul Chitale, was also present. As per the CBI chargesheet, at the time of signing the panchanama, police showed them two live cartridges, two empty cartridges, blood-stained clothes of Dr Dabholkar and other articles.

“All the articles were sealed before us on the same day in the police station and our signatures were also taken on the sealed packets. However, we put the date of August 20, 2013 though we signed it on August 21, 2013 … on August 20, I had not visited the spot. I am a friend of police. So I helped the police in this important case by becoming a panch witness….,”says Marne, as per this statement.

By pointing out the statement in the CBI chargesheet, defence lawyers Prakash Salsingikar, Virendra Ichalkaranjikar and Suvarna Avhad Vast cross-examined Marne on Friday. They questioned him about the sealed articles and alleged that he was giving a false statement before the court to help Pune City Police.

But Marne said he had never met the CBI officer mentioned in the chargesheet, D S Chauhan, and never given any statement to the agency. He reiterated that he was called by Pune City Police twice on August 20, 2013, as a panch witness.

The CBI, which had taken over the investigation from Pune City Police in 2014, has till now chargesheeted five accused, all of them allegedly linked to the radical outfit Sanatan Sanstha. These include ENT surgeon Dr Virendrasinh Tawade, two alleged assailants Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar, Mumbai-based lawyer Sanjeev Punalekar and his aide Vikram Bhave, who have been arrested at different times between 2016 and 2019. Of these, Tawade, Andure and Kalaskar are currently in jail while Punalekar and Bhave are out on bail.

On September 15, 2021, the special court had framed charges against four accused — Tawade, Andure, Kalaskar and Bhave — for murder, conspiracy to commit murder along with Section 16 of the UAPA pertaining to terrorist acts and various provisions of the Arms Act for the use of firearms. The court has also charged Punalekar for destruction of evidence in the case. All five accused have pleaded not guilty.

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