Salman Khan, one of the Bollywood’s busiest actors and superstar was sentenced to five years in prison on Wednesday in a 2002 hit-and-run case after the Mumbai Sessions Court found the actor guilty of all the charges leveled against him.
The 49-year old who was found guilty of “culpable homicide not amounting to murder”, is currently on a two day interim bail. Khan was accused of crashing his Toyota Land Cruiser over five persons sleeping on a platform outside a bakery in Bandra on early September 28, 2002, killing one of them and injuring the others. Nurullah Mahboob Shaikh died on the spot. Additional Sessions Judge D.W. Deshpande announced the verdict in the 13-year old high profile case saying that the actor was intoxicated and without a license when he was driving, convicting him of all the eight charges directed against him. The prosecution examined 27 witnesses who along with the survivors testified that Salman was behind the wheel when the accident occurred. The culpable homicide offence which provides for punishment up to 10 years was reduced to five years by the court considering Salman’s humanitarian work. The verdict is a yet another instance of the country’s law and order system that moves at a snail’s pace however high profile the case is.
The actor didn’t pay heed to the police constable, Ravindra Patil, Khan’s security guard and also a key witness in the case, who tried to stop the actor from driving his car. Patel had said in his statement before his death in 2007 that the actor drove the car and that he and his cousin fled the scene after the accident. The Mumbai Sessions Court had rejected Salman’s claims that it was his driver who was at the wheel during the mishap. The actor had denied the charge that he had been drinking just before the accident. The documents related to the case had also gone missing in between. The court verdict even though delayed, upheld justice proving that all citizens are equal in the eyes of law. According to Defence lawyer Abha Singh, the delay had given “an impression that the rich could get away with murder and that moneyed was above the law.” Salman’s lawyers had appealed for a lighter sentence citing his medical issues, his humanitarian work and also the controversial Alistair Pereira case. Pereira, in November 2006, lost control of his Toyota Corolla on Carter Road and ran over a group of construction workers sleeping on the pavement, killing seven people and injuring six. The High Court convicted him for the serious offence of culpable homicide and sentenced him to three years in prison. The Supreme Court had then reminded the lower courts that the law was same for all and critisised the lighter approach towards the affluent and influential political and social bigwigs.
Khan has already been involved in a controversial case of killing the endangered black bucks. The actor being one of the top crowd pullers of Bollywood, the verdict has shocked the film industry. He has several projects in the pipeline up to 2017 and around Rs 200 crore is currently riding on him. The media due to the tremendous interest in the case vied with each other to sensationalise it right from the beginning following every tiny twist over the years. This according to analysts may also have influenced the court verdict. The victim’s family on the other hand wants the government to provide them with compensation and rehabilitation rather than punishing the actor in jail. The guilty should be punished as per the law. It is pathetic that millions of fans who revere Khan have nothing to learn from the superstar. Despite his humanitarian works, the only ways in front of him are that of repentance and rectifying his mistakes.