Mumbai

I was at the wheel, claims Salman’s driver

In a twist to the 2002 hit and run trial against actor Salman Khan, the actor's driver Ashok Singh appeared before the court for the first time and owned up the responsibility of the accident. He said he kept silent all these years as he did not know what to do due to lack of knowledge of court procedures.

He denied prosecution's suggestion that he was paid huge sum to own up the crime. He also denied lying on oath to the court.

At no point during the investigation or trial till now had it been claimed that Ashok Singh was driving the car on the night of the accident in September 2002. It was only last week when Salman Khan stood in the box to answer the judge's questions that he said for the first time that his driver Ashok Singh was driving the car.

"Till then, his name had never appeared in the case, barring a small mention in the beginning of the investigation that Ashok Singh used to drive Salman's car in the day. At no point in time had the actor claimed till last week that Ashok was driving the car," special public prosecutor Pradeep Gharat said outside the court room.

‘Police refused to record statement’

In the court, during the two-hour proceedings, the driver claimed that he tried to tell the police soon after the accident, but they refused to record his statement.

"I felt bad that the accident happened when I was driving the vehicle and Salman Khan had to face the consequences," he told Judge D W Deshpande. When asked during his cross examination as to why he had not approached the court earlier in this 13-year old case, he said he had no knowledge of the court procedures.

While narrating the incident, he said he was driving the car when the front left tyre burst. "I tried turning the steering, but it got hard. I tried applying brakes, but the vehicle had climbed the stairs of the laundry," he told the court.

He said he was at the accident spot for over five minutes, after which he went to Bandra police station to inform about the accident. He said that the officials at Bandra police station told him that a police team had already left for spot. He also claimed that he waited at the police station till 4:30 am the next morning, but the police refused to register his statement.

"I could not say anything to the media (which had gathered outside Bandra police station the next morning). I was in the police station, how could I say something against the police?" he asked.

The court will hear the matter on Tuesday when the defence has been given further opportunity to produce any other witnesses. Thereafter, the defence will close its evidence. Final arguments in the matter are expected to begin thereafter.

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2020 11:11:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/salman-khans-driver-owns-up-to-crime/article7049042.ece

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