In a dramatic development in the blackbucks poaching case, the prime eyewitness, Poonamchand, failed to identify Sonali Bendre and Tabu in a court in Jodhpur yesterday.
Interestingly, the actresses had voluntarily appeared before the chief judicial magistrate in Jodhpur, Chandrakala Jain. Poonamchand had earlier deposed that he could identify all actors in the court.
According to a well-placed source in Rajasthan, “Poonamchand apparently was grilled for the third day of cross examination by lawyer Shrikant Shivade who happens to represent not only Sonali and Tabu, but also Saif Ali Khan.”
A few minutes before the lunch break, Sonali and Tabu appeared in the court while advocate Shivade asked the witness to identify them. After taking a close look at both of them, Poonamchand testified that he couldn’t identify Sonali in the court and in regards to Tabu, he said that her height resembles that of the Life of Pi actress. However, he failed to recognise Tabu either.
The witness further admitted during the cross examination that he could not see the height of anybody as they were sitting in a jeep at the time of the incident.
Poonamchand further admitted that he desired that the culprits should be arrested and that he knew that unless the names are disclosed to the authorities, they would not be able to do the needful.
Our source adds, “In spite of saying so, he didn’t disclose the names of any of the actors, including Neelam, in his complaint application filed by himself as well as his FIR. However, he claimed he knew them by face and names prior to the incident.”
The haunting past
In 1998, Salman Khan was charged with poaching two blackbucks in Kankani during the filming of Hum Saath Saath Hain along with co-stars Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Sonali Bendre and Neelam.
A lower court charged them under the Wildlife Act and the IPC. The Jodhpur court has summoned him along with all the accused for commencement of the trial with the revised charges on February 4, 2013.