Bollywood star Salman Khan has been guilty of running over five men sleeping on a pavement, killing one, in the 2002 hit-and-run case. Salman listened to verdict with tears in his eyes.
Salman did not even have a driving licence, judge D W Deshpande said. Salman was driving under the influence of alcohol, the Judge said. Salman Khan convicted on all charges, including culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
Khan, star of blockbusters ‘Bodyguard' and ‘Dabangg', was accused of losing control of his SUV after consuming alcohol at an upmarket bar in Mumbai in 2002 and fleeing from the scene.
household name in India with millions of fans, Khan can face up to 10 years in prison if found guilty following a trial whose every twist has been followed by the media.
Public prosecutor Pradeep Gharat said he had presented the case as best as he could to the Bombay sessions court judge, adding "we can only hope but cannot predict" a conviction.
Khan pleaded not guilty at trial, saying his driver was responsible for the late night crash in which his Toyota Land Cruiser mounted the pavement where five men were sleeping outside a bakery in the upmarket suburb of Bandra West.
The prosecution said Khan's rash driving claimed the life of Nurullah Mehboob Sharif and injured Kalim Mohammed Pathan, Munna Malai Khan, Abdullah Rauf Shaikh and Muslim Shaikh.
Ravindra Himmatrao Patil, was deputed as Salman's police escort on August 28, 2002. In his statement to police he said the drunk actor lost control of the car while driving at about 90 kilometres an hour.
"The people were sleeping on the footpath. Salman and (his cousin) Kamaal ran away from the spot," Patil, said.
Patil, who passed away during the trial, had also said that Khan was under the influence of liquor when he met with the accident. However, he has not said a word about Khan's claim that his driver Ashok Singh was behind the wheel. Khan's lawyer argued that the evidence of Ravindra Patil, an eyewitness, should be discarded as he had passed away and was not available for cross examination.
On the other hand, the prosecution argued Patil's evidence should be considered as he had seen Khan driving the car and was a key witness.
Muslim Niyamat Shaikh, who got injury in the left leg in the accident, worked at the American Express bakery. Shaikh said, “I heard a sound. I found myself beneath the car… Bakery people helped us. People were saying Salman Khan had got down from the car.” He also deposed that he saw Salman getting off the right side of the car. During cross-examniation, Shaikh admitted his statement was recorded two and a half months after the accident.
Andheri resident Ashok Singh (42) - the lone defence witness in the case – has been Khan family's driver since 1990. He appeared before the court for the first time on March 30 and said it was he and not the actor who was driving the SUV at the time of the accident.
Describing how the accident took place, Singh said: "A tyre burst and the car was dragged to the left....I tried to turn the steering wheel but it was hard, then I tried to apply brakes but by then the car had climbed the stairs of bakery.
"I was in a state of shock and Salman was sitting on the left side. He tried to open the door but it got jammed. He got down from my side which was on the right," said Singh, replying to questions asked by Salman's lawyer Shrikant Shivade.
Asked why he had not revealed this till now, Singh said it did not strike him to come to court. “Salim Khan (Salman's father) told me to go to court and tell the truth,” Singh said.
Bollywood actor Salman Khan‘s lawyer Shrikant Shivade on April 18 described the actor's driver Ashok Singh, who owned responsibility for the 2002 accident, as “most truthful and natural witness” in the case. The defence lawyer pointed out that Singh's testimony shows Salman did not flee from the scene of the accident on September 28, 2002.
Shivade said the action star had in fact been drinking water all evening. Shivade argued that post-mortem report of the deceased suggested that he had received crushing injuries and it had been caused when a crane called by police could not lift the heavy SUV at one go and dropped it on the victims.
The prosecution said it was relying upon the statement given by Khan's police bodyguard Ravindra Patil in which he had warned the actor not to drive in a rash and negligent manner but Salman did not pay any heed to his advice.
(With Agency inputs)