Observing that it has many “more important cases to hear and decide”, the Supreme Court Tuesday declined to fast-track Maharashtra government’s appeal against acquittal of Bollywood actor Salman Khan in the 2002 hit-and-run case.
“Leave granted. Petition is admitted for final hearing,” ordered a bench of Justices J S Khehar and Arun Mishra. The order means that the state government’s appeal against Khan would come up for final arguments after the criminal appeals filed before it are listed for hearing. The Supreme Court is currently hearing batch of criminal appeals of 2011-12 and therefore, unless expedited by a specific order, the appeal against Khan’s acquittal is unlikely to come up for final hearing in the next two years.
Representing Maharashtra government, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi asked the bench to speed up the hearing and fix it after six weeks as the case was nearly 15 years old.
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But the bench retorted: “We cannot put on fast-track the hearing in this case just because some X, Y, Z is involved. We have to deal with so many other important matters too.” It asked the AG to seek appropriate orders from the Chief Justice of India if the state wanted this appeal to be heard on a priority basis.
On his part, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who is representing the actor, said he has instructions that the matter could be “decided on merits” and that he had no objection to when the appeal is listed for hearing.
However, the bench clarified that it has admitted the appeal for final hearing since the pleadings are complete in it and parties are at liberty to approach the CJI for further order on listing.
Meanwhile, the bench also agreed to hear a petition filed separately by senior counsel Pandit Parmanand Katara, who has challenged Bombay High Court’s order of acquittal. According to Katara, the law mandated Khan to file a revision petition against his conviction by the trial court but he filed an appeal, which was admitted by the High Court. The lawyer claimed the petition before the apex court was not maintainable due to alleged non-observance of the legal procedure. The court refused urgent hearing and said it would consider the matter later.
The apex court had in February issued a notice that stated that “…the (Bombay) High Court has not concluded as to who was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident.”