In a fresh development, the Bombay High Court has reportedly adjourned the hearing on actor Salman Khan’s appeal against conviction in hit-and-run case to July 1.
Justice A R Joshi was informed by Salman’s lawyer Amit Desai that the ‘paper book’ (compilation of evidence and documents which is served to both the sides by the court) was not complete.
The judge then ordered that this task should be expeditiously completed and deferred the matter till July 1. On behalf of the Maharashtra government, Chief Public Prosecutor S S Shinde appeared and consented to the date fixed for the next hearing. Salman did not come to the court. His sister Alvira was, however, present.
Salman has challenged the findings of the trial court that he was drunk and was driving under the influence of liquor. The actor pleaded that the trial court had wrongly convicted him under the culpable homicide charge, because he had no knowledge that he would meet with an accident.
In the appeal, Salman has argued that the trial court had failed to appreciate the fact that four prosecution witnesses, including the investigating officer, had maintained that there were four persons present in the Toyota Land Cruiser when the accident took place and that it was the family driver Ashok Singh who was at the wheel.
On May 8, this year the Bombay HC had granted bail to the Bollywood superstar and suspended his 5-year sentence in the 2002 hit-and-run case, pronounced by a sessions court on May 6.
While admitting the 49-year-old actor’s appeal, the HC said it will expedite the hearing on it and posted the matter for June 15. Justice Abhay Thipsay directed Khan to surrender before the trial court and execute a fresh bail bond of Rs 30,000.
Salman’s lawyer Amit Desai had earlier argued in HC during admission of the actor’s appeal that the prosecution’s sole eyewitness Ravindra Patil (Khan’s then police bodyguard who passed away in 2007) was an “unwilling witness” and he was “forced” to give his evidence about Khan driving the car. The lawyer had also contended that Patil had in an interview a day after the accident said there were four persons in the car. However, during the trial, he contradicted himself by saying there were only three persons.
Desai argued that the trial court judgement holding that Khan was driving the car and that he was under the influence of liquor was not satisfactory. He also said that the trial court had failed to consider the defence plea of a ‘tyre burst’ having caused the accident.
Khan’s lawyer had also questioned the prosecution’s failure to examine singer Kamaal Khan, who was present in the car at the relevant time along with the actor and was a key eyewitness.
However, government pleader Sandeep Shinde, though not opposing the admission of appeal, had objected to suspension of the sentence and argued that Khan had knowledge of consequences of rash and negligent and drunken driving.
Therefore, he said, the trial court had rightly convicted Khan under the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Shinde said the blood test of Khan revealed there was alcohol content above the permissible limit. He also said that while Kamaal Khan’s statement was recorded by police during investigation, he was not available to them for examination before the trial court as he was a UK national.
Refuting the defence claim of four persons travelling in the vehicle, Shinde said the theory of Ashok Singh being at the wheel was introduced at the fag end of the trial when Khan made a statement under section 313 of CrPC, and termed it as an “afterthought”.