Just months after being praised for securing a conviction against actor Salman Khan in the 2002 hit-and-run case, the Mumbai police on Thursday said they were puzzled with the High Court verdict acquitting the actor of all charges.
Officials said that while the police had no option but to accept the verdict and think about the next course of action, they were pondering over a few things. “When the sessions court gave its verdict, everybody was calling us up and praising us for a job well done, telling us that even though it took 13 years, the fact that we were able to secure a conviction was remarkable. Suddenly, we find some of the crucial aspects of the case being discarded, the same aspects based on which Khan was convicted. We don’t know how to react,” said a police officer who did not wish to be named. Another officer said the court’s observations about prosecution failure had also demoralised the investigating team. “The same people who praised us earlier are now talking about failure. Who do we hold responsible?” said the officer.
When contacted, Joint Commissioner of Police (law and order) Deven Bharti said, “We will study the HC order and consult with the Law and Judiciary department before deciding on further course of action.”
Retired Director-General of Police K. Subramaniam said the issue of justice to the family of the victims had to be addressed. “Somebody was driving that car. If not Salman Khan, then who? Has that question been answered?”
Mr Subramaniam further said that the incident was a failure of the criminal justice system. “It is unfortunate that a case of drunk driving, in which people have died, went on in court for 13 years. Why was he given so much latitude? Will the same be done for Jhanavi Gadkar? Or anyone else for that matter?” he said.
Retired DGP Arvind Inamdar said people may not be happy with the verdict. “The main thing about the law is not the severity of punishment but the certainty of it. People need to have faith in the basic fact that if you commit a crime, you will not escape the law.”