Salman’s reckoning

Conviction of a movie star sends out an important message of equality before law. But it took a long time coming.

By: Express News Service | Published:May 7, 2015 12:42 am
Salman Khan, Salman khan verdict, salman jail term, salman khan bail, salman khan hit and run verdict bail, salman khan verdict news, salman khan guilty, salman khan hit and run case, salman khan hit and run case verdict, salman hit and run, salman khan hit run case verdict, salman khan court, salman khan court case, salman khan court case verdict, salman khan mumbai court verdict, salman khan hit and run case judgement, salman khan car driver ashok singh, salman khan news, bollywood news, India news One of the highest paid actors in Bollywood, Salman was sentenced for culpable homicide not amounting to murder, driving without licence and other charges.

Salman Khan, movie star, has been found guilty of culpable homicide, among other offences, and sentenced to five years in prison by a Mumbai sessions court. The verdict in the 2002 hit-and-run case sends out a powerful message, that the law will not bend for the rich and influential, that the impunity that comes with privilege and entitlement will not, in the end, prevail. It is a message that should travel from Mumbai to Moga, where individuals driving a bus owned by Punjab’s ruling political family seemed to have felt emboldened to molest and kill a teenage girl, and the local MLA called it “god’s will”. But for all its heartening import, justice has taken too long for the victims of the hit-and-run case.

On September 28, 2002, the actor’s car reportedly careened on to a pavement in Bandra, killing one person and injuring four. In the years to come, the victims would have to negotiate a judicial process that ran into roadblocks every step of the way. First, the application of Section 304 (ii) of the IPC, holding Salman Khan guilty of culpable homicide, was questioned. Included in the police chargesheet of October 2002, it was challenged first in the sessions court, then in the Bombay High Court and finally in the Supreme Court. It would be a decade before the additional chief metropolitan magistrate invoked culpable homicide again and referred the case to the sessions court.

Second, evidence showing the actor was drunk at the time of the incident was cast into doubt. Third, testimonies in the case painted a changing picture. A key police witness turned hostile and died in 2007. In 2014, case files disappeared from the Bandra police station and 63 original statements of witnesses were reported missing. In the last stages of the case, the actor’s driver suddenly came forward to say he had been the person at the wheel. It took 13 years for a judge to finally tell Salman Khan, “You were driving the car, without a licence and you were under the influence of alcohol”.

Yet this was a high-profile case, fought in the public eye and followed intently, which might have guided it towards closure, howsoever delayed. For every instance of closure, there are thousands of others snaking their way into judicial oblivion. In 2013, there were 9.71 million criminal cases pending before the judiciary, and the completion rate for cases was only 13.19 per cent. An understaffed judiciary creaks under the weight of cases, and tardy investigative processes have compounded the problem. The conviction of a movie star puts this reality in the limelight.

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  1. M
    mohit kumar
    May 7, 2015 at 1:15 pm
    The judgment is significant as it underlines that the celebrity impunity is not a precedent in Indian context. Admittedly, it delivers late but it delivers with a message that law will tread its own course without bending for anyone of whatever stature. This particular judgment should be though viewed from a different prism. It has again opened the same plethora of questions over which incessant debate keeps going on without any concrete solutions and steps being taken for. The functional, insutional, infrastructural lacunae in the judiciary are looming large and they are impacting the common man in a significant manner. If a criminal case involving a celebrity gets its judgment in 13 years, then spare a thought for an innocent common man/woman who is rotting as undertrials for years in inhumane conditions and we talk about “being human”. The overburdened judiciary with understaffed personnel, the tardy investigation, poor marriage with e-judiciary, poor infrastructural expansion needs to be addressed at the earliest. We, the people of India have utmost regard for our justice system but if the elements of the system act in a om and disjointed fashion, then such faith and trust gradually erodes.Without compromising with the cardinal values, the judiciary must work in a dynamic and smooth manner. Justice shouldn’t be hurried also and at the same time not dela also.
  2. C
    May 7, 2015 at 4:48 pm
    If the judgement is correct can Salman be tried for Perjury as he claimed that he was not driving! so his driver must be tried for Perjury!
  3. N
    Nichole Ballawarr
    May 8, 2015 at 4:32 pm
    Conviction - law defining a person's guilt , likewise. His fan following is shattered by the verdict of the SC of Mumbai , others thinking ' INHUMAN ACTS DAUBBED WITH BEING HUMAN TAG ' Conclusively, this a more of a historic verdict and an anxietial sigh upon those who try to retaliate the matters by bribery and bait. It evidently defines law , which in this era of 'Social Stratification ' judgements and courts hold a hierarchical status. Because ‪#‎onbeinghuman‬ with miscreant doesn't smear the acts even if they are non deliberate at least in court's conscious.