Bringing to an end the 12-year-old trial against actor Salman Khan, when Judge D W Deshpande pronounces his verdict Wednesday morning in the 2002 hit-and-run case, there will be 100 policemen inside and outside the 52nd courtroom at the Bombay City Civil and Sessions Court to maintain law and order.
Anticipating fans to crowd the premises, the Mumbai Police will deploy its men, including 10 officers, “from the courtroom down to interior and exterior of the court premises”.
Khan is accused of running over five persons sleeping on a platform outside a bakery in Bandra, in his white Land Cruiser, early September 28, 2002, killing one of them. Khan, according to the prosecution, was driving the car in an inebriated condition. The 49-year-old actor is booked for culpable homicide and faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.
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Abdullah Shaikh, 35, one of the four persons injured in the accident, is however “disillusioned” and feels this is a case of “justice delayed and justice denied”. “Itne din ke baad aayega toh kya fayda (what’s the point of getting the judgment after such a long time),” he said.
For majority of his three-year tenure in the court, Judge Deshpande has been presiding over the hit-and-run case.
The judge has taken the case on priority basis and until 11.15 am on Wednesday he will be only one who knows the fate of the actor. He has heard 28 witnesses and the final arguments for over a week.
Having fought the case from the state’s end, special public prosecutor Pradeep Gharat admitted he did not bother himself with the outcome of the case. “I have made the arguments to the best of my ability,” Gharat said. He claimed the stardom of the accused did not play on his head during the trial.
Defending the actor in two of his cases, including the hit-and-run, advocate Shrikant Shivade was “attending meetings” a day before the judgment. “I do not have anything to say,” the lawyer said.
With visitors coming to the court to see the star during the hearings, 10-odd police personnel would be stationed outside the courtroom throughout the trial. The number will go up ten times on the judgment day. Rameshwar Supale, senior inspector at Colaba police station, said, “Special attention will be also be paid to ensure there is no traffic gathered due to parking at the entrances to the court.”
Meanwhile, Salman arrived in the city late Tuesday afternoon. He reached his Bandra home to a cheering crowd of fans waiting outside.
Poulash Ghatak had travelled from the outskirts of Kolkata to “support the actor”, a day before the big day. “I came to Mumbai two weeks ago only for Salman bhai. My wallet and phone got stolen at the Bandra station. All these days I have been sleeping on the footpath in front of Salman bhai’s house, many a times the police have asked me to vacate the footpath but I didn’t move for I had trust that I would see him and I did,” he said.
Another fan claimed to have driven non-stop for over 10 hours from Indore to Mumbai on a Bullet to support his childhood idol. “If I have to wait here for a week or even a month I will, until I meet him. I have been praying for Salman bhai and I am sure that he will be set free because of his good deeds. If he is imprisoned, so many people who is working for him will lose hope. What about the good which he has done for so many people,” said Ankit Pandey, 20.
Amid all the action, however, Abdullah Shaikh appeared disinterested. He said Tuesday he had not heard from anyone from Salman’s family in the last 13 years. “My leg got injured in the accident and I had to quit my previous job as I was being hounded by the media and my employer did not like it. In these more than 12 years, nobody from Khan’s family has approached me. It is a case of justice delayed and justice denied,” he told The Indian Express.
Salman’s sister Alvira Khan and manager Reshma Shetty have not failed to attend any court hearing. Khan, exempted from the hearing as and when required, sat in court mostly dressed in different shades of blue. On the day of the judgment, Khan’s family, including his two sisters and parents, are likely to remain present in the court.
Bollywood, meanwhile, has a lot at stake. One of the top actors, Salman has huge money riding on him. He has currently four films on the floor. While Kabir Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan is set to release this July, the shooting for Sooraj Bharjatya’s comeback film Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is on and the film is set to hit cinemas on Diwali.
Both films, the former an action drama and the latter a period film, are big-budget productions with close to Rs 150 crore riding on them cumulatively. The actor has also agreed to act in Shuddhi to be produced by Karan Johar but hasn’t signed it yet.
“With these two films in pre-production stages, they won’t suffer big. But if one counts the signing amount and other costs, it would be another few crores,” said a trade analyst who did not wish to be named. However, another trade analyst said Bajrangi Bhaijaan was almost complete and that it would only need a few days’ work by the actor to wrap it up. The actor is also expected to be seen in a special appearance in Nikhil Advani’s remake of Hero, which Khan’s production house is making.
As a brand, the actor endorses fewer products and mostly ones that cater to the mass audience. In total, his brand endorsements again touch close to Rs 200 crore.
The actor is the brand ambassador for Pune-based PN Gadgil Jewellers, Wheel detergent and Dixcy Scott innerwear apart from cola major Thumbs Up. He also is the face of travel portal Yatra.com that he also has close to 5 per cent stake in. But brand consultant Ramanujan Sridhar said if the verdict went against Khan, the companies didn’t stand to lose much. “The brands he endorses cater to the same audience as his films. They promote his masculine image, which he has reinforced over the years and has a total following. These brands will largely remain unaffected,” he said.
However, Sridhar added that international companies, such as Suzuki, which recently signed him up for one of its latest automobile products, might reconsider the association if his image took a beating.
Last year, Khan also backed the Pro Kabaddi League, featuring in some of its ads. The network, in this case Star, had the actor shoot a few ads for the league in its last season. While he did receive a few crores in recompense, it was mostly in exchange of promoting Kick, which was releasing around the same time. The new season of the league, to take off this July, would have probably struck a similar deal with the upcoming release of Bajrangi Bhaijan.