He did not wait for police but hid himself until arrest; he did not visit the victims in hospital; he was a regular on that route and knew there were people sleeping on the pavement; and, he realised he didn’t have a driving licence and that driving after drinking alcohol was wrong.
These are the main points that Mumbai sessions judge D W Deshpande has highlighted in his judgement — the complete copy was released on Thursday — to convict Bollywood star Salman Khan on charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and sentenced him Wednesday to five years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 25,000 in the 2002 hit-and-run case.
The actor later obtained interim bail for two days from Bombay High Court, which will hear his appeal against the conviction and his plea for bail Friday.
“The accused is a renowned film actor and he could have done anything to provide help to the victims. If a ghastly accident takes place wherein one was crushed and four were injured, (and) despite that the person involved in the accident hid himself until arrested, (it) shows the conduct of the accused,” the judgement reads.
Had he done no wrong, Khan could simply have convinced the hostile crowd that gathered after the accident outside a bakery in September 2002 that action would be taken against the person who drove his Toyota Landcruiser over five men sleeping on a pavement in Bandra, the judge observed.
Instead, the judge noted, Khan did not wait for police to arrive at the spot. Also, the judgement said, the accused went home and did not reach the police station until 10.30 am the next day.
“This shows one of the circumstances against the accused, about his involvement in the offence. If really the accused did not commit any wrong he could have visited the police station and immediately lodged the information about the incident,” the judge said.
According to judge Deshpande, Salman did not take steps to visit the victims in hospital or provide medical aid to them or visit the spot again with the police.
Also, the judge said, a witness’ statement that he had often seen the actor frequenting the route on which the bakery is located was “undisputed”.
“In short, the accused was having knowledge that the poor labourers were sleeping in front… The accused was also having knowledge that he did not possess driving license to drive the car at the time of the accident. The accused was also possessing knowledge that he should not drive the car under alcohol consumption,” the judgment says.
The judge has also pointed out that there was alcohol in Khan’s blood sample. A person driving under the influence of alcohol would know that there is the chance of meeting with an accident causing death or injuries to others, “particularly those sleeping on the footpath”, the judgment says, holding that this would fall within the definition of the term “knowledge” appearing in Section 304-II of the IPC.
Salman’s lawyer Shrikant Shivade had argued that the fatal injuries were caused during rescue operations and not due to the accident. The court, however, did not accept the evidence of an injured witness based on which the lawyer made such a claim.
Countering the defence argument that the car was not speeding and that the tyre had burst, the court said if that was the case, the vehicle “could not have gone up the two-three steps of the bakery”.
“It means that the vehicle was in speed and while a taking right turn on the hill road from St Andrews road, the accused lost his control and went straight on the people sleeping in front… amounting to rash and negligent driving,” the judgement read.
The judge also held that the driver Ashok Singh was a witness who had come to help Khan after 13 years, on the instruction of the actor’s father Salim. The 49-year-old actor’s defence lawyer had claimed earlier this year that it was Singh who was behind the wheel that night.
“(That) even after the accused was bailed out, the witness… failed to declare that the accused was innocent and he was the culprit and kept total silence thereafter for more than 12 years is not acceptable to any prudent man with logic, and the witness had proved that he is lying in oath,” the judge observed.
The court also held that prosecution witness Ravindra Patil, Khan’s former bodyguard and a police constable who died in 2007, was a “natural and impartial witness’’ whose deposition that the actor was drunk and driving, the judge accepted.
As for the defence argument that Khan was drinking water at the Rain Bar in Mumbai before the accident, Judge Deshpande questioned why the actor and his friends stood at the counter where drinks are supplied if they did not wish to consume alcohol.