Just a day is left for the verdict to be pronounced in the Salman Khan 2002 hit-and-run case. The actor is charged with ‘culpable homicide not amounting to murder’ and ‘death by rash act’ for killing one person and injuring four others by ramming his car into American Express Bakery on Hill Road, Bandra, in the early hours of September 28.
In the 13 years since the incident, the case has been through a series of twists and turns. Written submissions made by Khan’s defence counsel Shrikant Shivade and special public prosecutor Pradip Gharat in the case show that disagreements between the two arose from the word go, starting from their versions of the route to the mishap site and all that followed, except for the fact that a bakery worker died and four were injured, and that singer Kamal Khan was in the car’s back seat.
The police arrested Khan on September 28, took him to Bhabha Hospital in Bandra and later in the day to JJ Hospital for blood sampling, before releasing him. The differences between defence and prosecution pertained to who was at the wheel, how many occupants were in the car, when was the FIR registered and what motivated it, the FIR’s contents, the reason Khan was named and arrested, his alcohol consumption, his blood alcohol level, the reliability of statements made by complainant Ravindra Patil (the actor’s bodyguard who died in 2007; he was in the car and said in his statement that he had asked Khan to slow down; he made allegedly prejudicial additions to it belatedly about drunkenness; because of his death, he was not available for cross-examination during the fresh trial at the sessions court).
While Shivade said the car’s route was from Rain Bar in Juhu to Marriott Hotel and it reached Hill Road at its junction with Manuel Gonsalves Road, a fair distance from the bakery, the police say it reached Hill Road at its junction with St Andrews Road, almost opposite the bakery. Shivade said Khan was not in the driver’s seat, but in the front passenger’s seat, and the car lost control and rammed into the shutters. As for the death of the bakery worker, he said it was caused by a “freak accident, when the crane (lifting the car) broke and the car fell on the worker”, killing him. He said it is only because of a mob gathering at the spot, “media pressure created by the accident… and natural prejudices” that the police “under tremendous pressure named and arrested Salman to pacify the agitated mob” and “did not name the driver (Ashok Singh; emerged in defence accounts 13 years after the incident) as it would lead to allegations of saving Salman”.
The only issue that will settle the case, the prosecutor said, is “whether Khan was driving or his driver, as claimed belatedly in court”. Gharat said there were three persons in the car, with Salman driving. Shivade said there were four (Singh being the fourth, at the wheel), which is proved since witnesses saw Patil out of the car when Salman got off from the right front door, since the left was jammed, and no one else came out, which means the driver had got out. The prosecutor said Khan was driving at 90-100 kmph when he lost control. The crux, said Gharat, is that Salman, who lived nearby, knew that workers slept on the shop steps and yet unmindful under the influence of alcohol, committed the offence.
Gharat said an injured person had deposed that he saw Salman get down and “run away” and the evidence about blood alcohol test cannot be discarded. Shivade said a witness saw Salman wait for 10-15 minutes when a mob gathered, and the alcohol results are questionable because of rules not being properly followed.