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Movie star Salman gets five-year jail term

Movie star Salman gets five-year jail term

MUMBAI: Popular Indian movie star Salman Khan, known for his macho good looks and steamy action scenes on screen, has been pronounced guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder on all counts in the September 28, 2002 hit-and-run case in which one pavement dweller was killed and four others sustained injuries when the actor’s white land cruiser rammed into them in suburban Bandra in Mumbai.

The 13-year-old trial came to a close on Wednesday with a five-year jail term for the actor, who broke down in court on hearing the verdict.

The sessions judge, D.W. Deshpande of a Mumbai court, sentenced the actor to five years in prison as he succinctly summed up his verdict in a single sentence: “You were behind the wheel driving the vehicle, under the influence of alcohol and without a valid driving licence.”

Salman was immediately taken into custody by the police and driven straight to the Arthur Road Prison in Central Mumbai.

(Salman later secured a two-day interim bail from Mumbai’s high court and would return to court on Friday for a hearing on extension of the bail, added Reuters.)

Defence lawyers led by Shrikan Shivade pleaded for a lighter sentence of up to three years and a fine considering the humanitarian work of the actor, who runs a charitable organisation, Being Human.

The defence team also submitted a medical certificate to substantiate their contention that the actor has not been keeping well and his incarceration might lead to mental trauma.

This was strongly opposed by prosecutor Pradeep Gharat who argued that the accused must be given maximum punishment as provided by law since he had been found guilty of all charges. 

“The seriousness or gravity of the offence should be the main consideration in pronouncing sentence....issues like compensation should not come in the way of exemplary punishment.”

Both sides also cited relevant extracts from two previous famous hit-and-run cases of Alistair Pereira (Mumbai) and Nikhil Honda (Delhi).

Standing in the witness box, the crestfallen 49-year-old actor was asked by the judge, “What do you have to say?” Salman remained silent, but deep in thought.

The actor was declared guilty under the Indian Penal Code’s Section 304(II) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), Section 279 (rash and negligent driving), Section 337 (causing minor injuries), Section 338 (causing major injuries) and other relevant sections. Under the sections cited, the maximum punishment a court can mete out is 10 years of imprisonment.

The 13-year-old case was taken up anew last year after Salman’s plea for a fresh trial was accepted by the court. The accused demanded fresh trial since he was being tried under more severe Section 304(II) of the Indian Penal Code for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The prosecution examined 27 witnesses and produced one defence witness Ashok Singh, the actor’s driver. Singh gave a new twist to the case as he claimed it was he and not his employer, who was at the steering wheel when the mishap took place.

This defence was dismissed by judge Deshpande on Wednesday who told Singh, “You are a liar and liable for facing charge of perjury (telling lies on oath in court).”

The crucial testimony in the high-profile case had been that of Salman’s bodyguard. A police constable, Ravindra Patil had recalled that he had repeatedly asked the actor to drive at a modest speed.

Patil, who died in 2007 of tuberculosis, confirmed on record that Salman was driving at 90km/h when five pavement dwellers were mowed down near the American Bakery close to the actor’s home in Galaxy Apartments in Bandra (west).

The Statesman/ANN

Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2015

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