Mumbai: The fate of Bollywood actor Salman Khan would be decided on May 6 when a sessions court will give its verdict in the hit-and-run case in which he is charged with killing one person and injuring four by ramming his car into a bakery shop in suburban Bandra 13 years ago.
Judge D W Deshpande on Tuesday declared the date of the verdict, a day after the prosecution and defence concluded arguments in the trial which was conducted afresh after a Magistrate added the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and referred the case to the sessions court.
The culpable homicide offence, which provides for punishment upto 10 years, is triable by a sessions court and not by a Magistrate. Earlier, the Magistrate was trying Khan for rash and negligent driving, an offence that attracts punishment upto two years.
49-year-old Khan pleaded he was not driving the car at the time of mishap and that his driver Ashok Singh was behind the wheel. This has been corroborated by Singh who appeared as defence witness.
However, prosecution alleged that Khan was driving after having ‘Bacardi Rum’ in a bar. The actor, on the other hand, argued he was having a glass of water and not alcohol.
While prosecution pleaded that there were three persons in the car — Salman, his police bodyguard Ravindra Patil and singer friend Kamal Khan, the actor argued that there was a fourth person and he was Ashok Singh.
The defence lawyer also argued that the post-mortem report of the deceased suggested that he had crushing injuries and it had been caused when a crane could not lift the heavy SUV in one go and dropped it on victims.
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 his evidence should be considered as he had seen Khan driving the car and was a key witness.
Patil had said in his statement that he had warned Khan not to drive rashly or else he would meet with an accident. He had also said that Khan was under the influence of liquor.
A court had in 2013 framed charges in a fresh trial against Khan for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The prosecution examined 27 witnesses to prove its case.
According to the prosecution, 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.
However, Khan claimed that he was not driving the Toyota Land Cruiser and it was his driver Ashok Singh who was behind the wheel.
The prosecution also alleged that Khan was driving the car without holding a licence. It produced RTO records to show that the actor had procured a licence only in 2004, two years after the mishap.
The actor, however, pleaded that this was not the first licence obtained by him.
In a related development, Judge Deshpande today disposed of an application filed by Khan’s lawyer Srikant Shivade seeking contempt action against police and two city newspapers for publishing news and photographs of an attempt made by Bandra Police Station to recreate the scene of crime.
Police drove a vehicle from J W Marriot Hotel to the accident spot at the same time the actor had allegedly done to prove that Khan had driven the car at a great speed to cover the distance.
Prosecutor Pradeep Gharat had also filed an application, saying he had not approved of the police action to recreate the scene of offence as the matter was sub-judice. He recommended action may be taken against the officer.
However, both applications were disposed of after senior police inspector Rajendra Kane and the two newspapers apologised for carrying the story.
The court asked them not to report any speculative news till the judgement is delivered. The newspapers are allowed to report only true proceedings of the court, the judge ruled.
Khan was not present in the court today but the judge has asked him to come on the day of the verdict. His sister Alvira was seen in the court.
The court would decided on April 23 another application filed by activist Santosh Daundkar seeking perjury (false evidence) action against police for delaying the trial by producing a wrong set of doctors earlier before a Magistrate.
This application had been referred to the sessions court by the Magistrate after he transferred the case by adding the charge of culpable homicide.
Khan is facing charges under provisions of IPC, Motor Vehicles Act and Bombay Prohibition Act.
He is charged under IPC Sections 304 part II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) which attracts upto 10 years in prison; 279 (rash and negligent driving) which stipulates six months jail; 337 & 338 (causing hurt by act endangering life and causing grievous hurt respectively) with punishment up to two years, and 427 (mischief causing damage to property) with maximum punishment of upto two years.
Under Motor Vehicle Act, the actor is charged with Sections 34 (a), (b) read with 181 (driving vehicle in contravention of rules) and 185 (driving at great speed after consuming alcohol.
Khan is also charged under the sections of Bombay Prohibition Act relating to driving under influence of alcohol with maximum six months’ jail.