The day of the citizen

Salman Khan is no ordinary film star with blockbusters and fan clubs to his name. A celebrity who not only mentors younger actors but also actively aids social service, he is hugely popular among both the producers and the consumers of Bollywood films. Not surprisingly, >his conviction in the hit-and-run case resulted not in any dent in his image or popularity, but in a huge wave of >sympathy from fellow Bollywood stars and film fans. The Mumbai Sessions Court therefore did well to not be swayed by the groundswell of support for the megastar while handing down the judgment in the 2002 case. The verdict was broadly in line with the Supreme Court’s observations in the Alistair Pereira case that the law should be equal for celebrities and ordinary citizens alike in serious offences that result in deaths. Pereira, 21, from a wealthy business family, lost control of his luxury car in Bandra in November 2006 and ran over five labourers and two children sleeping on the pavement. Though the Supreme Court upheld the three-year sentence given by the Bombay High Court, it said that was too “lenient” a punishment for an offence of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The Supreme Court indicated that trial courts should not give the benefit of the doubt to those driving drunk and instead convict them under 304 II (punishable with 10 years imprisonment) than the lesser offence of 304 A that provides for a jail term of two years for negligent and rash driving.

Sessions Court judge D.W. Deshpande’s verdict also nailed attempts by Salman’s lawyers to pin the blame on his driver Ashok Singh, the only defence witness who was suddenly brought up at the last stage of the 13- year-long trial. Singh testified that it was he who drove the vehicle that the prosecution claimed Salman drove in a drunken state. But Judge Deshpande was not convinced, and told Salman as much on the day of the judgment. Though Indian courts have been relatively less stringent in pursuing perjury cases, it is important that the judiciary pursue the perjury matter against Ashok Singh to expose why he was willing to take the blame. The Bollywood discourse that Salman was paying the price for his celebrity status, and that he had done humanitarian work, has an eerie echo with similar arguments made for Sanjay Dutt in the 1993 serial bombings case. Quite rightly, the court did not take such extraneous considerations into account, and the judgment will serve as a model for the lower judiciary in cases of a similar nature. For the police, the lesson is that they cannot be slipshod in investigations. Perhaps the most important message is for society at large: drunken driving could have serious consequences for other people. Deaths caused by drivers under the influence of alcohol should attract the charge of culpable homicide, and not merely that of negligent driving.


Salman Khan convicted in hit-and-run case

Justice D.W. Deshpande held the Bollywood actor guilty of all counts rejecting his claim that his driver Ashok Singh was at the wheel when the accident took place. > Read more


How the hit-and-run case unfolded

From initial charges to the final verdict, here's a timeline of the case that spanned over a massive 13 years..

>Read more

Bollywood offers Salman Khan words of comfort

Actors across Bollywood took to Twitter to offer solace to the actor. A look at some of the tweets:
>Read more
  • Other Controversies
  • Blackbuck case: He was accused of poaching two Blackbucks in 1998 near Jodhpur during the shooting of 'Hum Saath Saath Hain'. He was sentenced to one year prison.
  • Comments about 26/11 attacks: “It was the elite that was targeted this time. So they panicked. Then they got up and spoke about it. My question is why not before? Attacks have happened in trains and small towns too, but no one talked about it so much,” Salman said in 2010. He claimed that Pakistan cannot be held responsible. He later apologised.
  • Aishwarya Rai in the picture: After their presence in ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’, the couple’s relationship was in the eye of the storm. After they broke up in 2002, Aishwarya alleged that the actor harassed her, as he was unable to come to terms with the ending of their relationship. A case was also registered by Aishwarya’s parents.
  • Brawl with SRK: In 2008, the two actors allegedly got into a fistfight during a party. The relationship between the two stars has never been the same since then. However, the two actors got back together on a good foot in an Iftar party and SRK attended Salman’s sister’s wedding. SRK visited Salman hours before the verdict on hit-and-run case.
  • Vivek Oberoi’s allegations: The actor accused Salman of "threatening to kill him, abusing and indulging in character assassination." It was rumoured that Vivek Oberoi and Aishwarya Rai were in a relationship.

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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 4:22:41 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/2002-salman-hitandrun-case-the-day-ofthe-citizen/article7177624.ece

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