Indicating that the Maharashtra government will have to work up a sweat on its appeal against acquittal of Salman Khan in the 2002 hit-and-run case, the Supreme Court said Friday it is still “making up its mind” on whether to reopen the case and issue a notice to the actor.
“We are still making up our minds. We must remember it is an appeal against an acquittal,” said a bench of Justices J S Khehar and C Nagappan after hearing the state government’s arguments. Only in few cases, an appeal against a judgment of acquittal is admitted by the apex court for detailed hearing and lesser number of cases result in reversal of an acquittal order.
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Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who represented Maharashtra government, told the bench: “There is no restriction on this court under Article 136 to entertain an appeal against acquittal. Moreover, this is not just a case of acquittal but a case of reversal of conviction. He was first convicted and then the order was set aside by the High Court. This court has said in many judgments that a special leave to appeal has to be admitted when the high court order is perverse or wrong,” he asserted.
Rohatgi added that he would be able to convince the bench on February 12, the next date of hearing, that this appeal deserves to be admitted.
Appearing for Salman, senior advocate Kapil Sibal said he too has a lot to say and counter Rohatgi’s arguments.
The hearing Friday revolved around the evidence in the case as to who was driving the Land Cruiser on September 28, 2002, when it ran over a man sleeping on the pavement, killing him.
“We want to see the purport of questions put to the prosecution witnesses regarding the driver of the vehicle,” the bench told Rohatgi.
At this, Rohatgi read out statements of two witnesses, contending there were three persons in the car – Salman, his friend Kamal Khan and the actor’s bodyguard Ravindra Patil. “The theory of a fourth person is an afterthought. The accused or his father (Salim Khan) never said anything about this driver for 13 years whereas it had to be the first natural defence,” he said.
The AG also said the testimony of Patil, who died of tuberculosis in 2007 and his statement was later held to be not admissible under the law by Bombay High Court, was legally tenable and he was a reliable eyewitness.
“This bodyguard said that the accused was driving the vehicle. What motive can he be said to have for framing the actor? Also, see the conduct of the accused. He did not help anybody injured on the spot and fled. When his blood test was done, the alcohol limit was found to be excessive even after 12 hours of the incident. All this evidence has been wrongly discounted by the High Court,” said Rohatgi.