The Bombay high court on Thursday said that Salman Khan cannot be convicted in the 2002 hit-and-run case while pronouncing its verdict on the actor’s appeal to overturn a sessions court judgment in May that held him guilty and handed out a five-year jail term.
The court said that appreciation of evidence by trail court is not proper according to principles of jurisprudence.
The actor was present in the court when the order was read out.
On Wednesday, the court had observed that the prosecution had not convincingly proved the 49-year-old actor was drunk or driving his Toyota Land Cruiser when the vehicle ran over five sleeping people on a pavement, one of whom died later, in Bandra West on September 28, 2002.
The high court opened a window of hope for the popular actor when justice Joshi said on Wednesday it was difficult to rely on the testimony of Ravindra Patil, the police guard who was in the vehicle at the time of the accident.
He observed that Patil, who died of tuberculosis in 2007, was not a “wholly reliable witness” because of the numerous changes in his statements during the course of the trial, although he was the lone witness to testify that Salman was drunk at the wheel.
© Provided by Hindustan Times
“Even if Patil’s statement has to be considered as partially reliable, there has to be corroboration in evidence which does not exist in this case,” Joshi said.
The drink-driving charge looked doubtful since Patil didn’t mention it in the FIR filed hours after the accident but said so a few days later after Salman’s blood test reports came in. Later, he turned hostile and retracted his statement.
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Justice Joshi also made crucial observations on the defence witness, Salman’s family driver Ashok Singh, as well as singer-friend Kamaal Khan, who was with the actor in the car but the prosecution never examined him in court.
The loyal driver took the blame for the accident after Salman was held guilty in May, saying he was driving the car on that fateful night. The prosecution dismissed his confession as 13 years too late.
Justice Joshi, however, didn’t agree with the prosecution’s argument.
He also took a strong stand against the prosecution for its failure to examine Kamaal Khan, who was in the country till 2007 before he settled abroad. “The examination of an eyewitness, especially when the case has very limited number of eyewitnesses, is incremental. But the conduct of the investigating agencies leads to the conclusion that they were not desirous of bringing Kamaal Khan before the court. It is thus, necessary to draw an adverse inference against the prosecution.”
The court said the prosecution had failed to prove that the left front tyre of Salman’s car burst after the accident that night. The actor had maintained all along that the car swung out of control and jumped onto the pavement following a tyre burst on Hill Road in Bandra.
He made these observations while dwelling upon citations of the Bombay high court and the Supreme Court in a similar case pertaining to Alister Pereira and the applicability of Section 304, Part II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) under which Salman was convicted.
(With agency inputs)
VIDEO: Salman Khan’s 2002 hit-and-run case timeline
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