A sessions court in Mumbai on Wednesday held Bollywood actor Salman Khan guilty of culpable homicide and sentenced him to five-year rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 25,000 in the 2002 hit-and-run case.
The 49-year-old actor was convicted of ramming a roadside bakery with his Toyota Land Cruiser on September 28, 2002, killing one person and wounding four others sleeping on the pavement outside.
Plea against conviction
The day, however, ended on a less grim note for the actor as the High Court granted him bail till May 8 when it will hear his plea against the conviction. Justice A.M. Thipsay granted bail on the ground that he had been handed only the two-page operative part of the sessions court verdict and not a detailed order .
“You are now free,” sessions judge D.W. Deshpande told Khan after receiving the High Court’s order.
Earlier, pronouncing the judgment in a packed courtroom, judge Deshpande convicted the actor under Section 304 II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the IPC. “Taking stock of the evidence, the court holds that you were driving the vehicle. The court also holds that you were under intoxication. All the charges against you are proved,” the judge told Khan , who stood in the box meant for the accused, clad in a white shirt and light-blue denim trousers. The court said the defence’s contention that a death in the case was caused owing to a crane was “not probable.”
Although Khan tried to put up a brave face, his reaction was evident as he stood with his head bowed and shuffled his feet.
When the court asked Khan what he had to say about his conviction, the actor replied, “Whatever you have said is correct. I don’t want to say anything. I respect the court.” He told the court to take whatever steps it deemed suitable “in the interest of justice.”
His sisters Alvira Khan Agnihotri, who had attended the hearings, and Arpita Khan wept when the verdict was pronounced. They stood by their brother’s side after the verdict, along with brother Arbaaz Khan.
Last year, a fresh trial began in the case after Khan was charged under a harsher section 304 II of the Indian Penal Code (culpable homicide not amounting to murder).
The other charges against him include IPC sections 279 (rash driving), 134 (abetment of assault) and sections of the Motor Vehicle Act. If convicted, he may face imprisonment of up to 10 years.
In his deposition before the court in March, Khan said he was neither drunk nor was he driving his car. “I was awake through the night at that time. And I was stressed about this (accident),” he said when asked about his dilated pupils. Denying running away from the scene, he told the court, “I was told that it would be easier to help the victims in my absence...It is false that the bakery people caught me.”
According to the prosecution’s case, the actor was driving his car in a drunken state; he lost control of his car and ran over pavement dwellers. Constable Ravindra Patil, his bodyguard, who was present with him at the time, is the complainant in the case. Mr. Patil said in his statement to the police that Salman was in an inebriated condition and that he had warned the actor against driving in such a condition. The constable died in October 2007, before the retrial. The defence sought to discard his statement.
Khan’s defence lawyer Shrikant Shivade had contended that the prosecution should have produced fingerprint reports which would have been clinching evidence about the person who was driving the car at the time of the accident. He also claimed that the prosecution on purpose destroyed some crucial evidence in the case including the parking tag of J W Marriott hotel.
The prosecution examined 27 witnesses, while the defence examined only one witness — Khan’s driver Ashok Singh. One of the prosecution witnesses was a security guard Sachin Kadam, who was declared hostile after he backtracked from his statement of having seen the actor at the spot of the accident.
Watch video: SRK and Arpita visit Salman before his verdict