Mumbai: Actor Salman Khan had the knowledge that driving in a rash and negligent manner under the influence of liquor might result in death of people, Mumbai sessions court judge D W Deshpande said, convicting him of culpable homicide in the 2002 hit-and-run case.
In the verdict delivered on Wednesday, Deshpande, who sentenced the popular actor to five years rigorous imprisonment, said since Salman lived in the area where the accident took place, he had the knowledge that poor people used to sleep on the pavement. "The accused is a well-known actor and had knowledge that one should not drive vehicle without licence...he also had knowledge that one should not drive after consuming liquor and that too in late night," he said.
"These are the basic rules. The accused is a regular visitor to 'Rain Bar' as disclosed by witnesses. Prosecution witness 17, Mark D'souza has also said that Salman regularly passed by the area where American Express laundry is located," the judge said in the 240-page verdict. Salman was charged with ramming the bakery adjacent to the American Express laundry with his Toyota Land Cruiser in suburban Bandra, killing one person and injuring four others sleeping on the pavement outside.
The judgement further said the accused had the knowledge that people slept on footpath outside the shops near American Express laundry because he lived in the same area. "In short, the accused was having knowledge that the poor labourers were sleeping outside the laundry. He was also having knowledge that he was not possessing licence to drive at the time of incident. Also, he had the knowledge that he should not drive after consumption of liquor.
"Moreover, in blood test, the accused was found to have 0.062 mg of alcohol content in blood stream which shows that he was under the influence of liquor," said the judge. Under the influence of liquor it is difficult for a person driving the car to concentrate on driving, particularly at night, and thus he had the knowledge that his act might endanger lives of other persons, the judgement said.
"Knowledge of such facts cannot be far away from reality... in any case it would squarely fall within the definition appearing in section 304 part two IPC, i.e, culpable homicide not amounting to murder," said the judge. Disbelieving Salamn's defence that his driver Ashok Singh was behind the wheel at the time, judge Deshpande said, "The prosecution had established beyond doubt that the accused was driving the vehicle at the time of mishap."
Agreeing with the prosecution, the judge added, "Ashok Singh is a 'got up' witness who has come to help the accused on the instructions from his (Salman's) father Salim Khan." The trial judge further also noted that Salman spoke about Ashok Singh for the first time in this 13-year-long trial when he (Salman) recorded his statement under section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code earlier this year.
The point that Ashok Singh was driving the car had not been suggested to any of the prosecution witnesses by the accused at any stage during the trial earlier, the court said. "If Ashok Singh was driving the car at that time and not Salman, then soon after the accident, he (Singh) would have known that one person had died and four others injured." In his deposition before the court, Singh had said that he was not sure how many persons were trapped under the car, and he learnt only later that one person had been killed and four others injured.
The judge noted that the vehicle was driven by the accused at a great speed and the theory that a tyre burst (causing it to swerve) did not hold water. The judgement also dismissed Salman's claim that he did not flee the accident spot but was present there for some time afterwards. He did not provide any medical assistance to the injured, the court noted.