In a typical filmy style, the saga of Salman Khan’s Hit and Run case has come to almost an end with the actor finally acquitted and let go scot-free in the drunken drive case over the mishap that occurred on September 28, 2002. Now the prosecution may move to the Supreme Court challenging today’s order by the court.
The case took more than 13 years for the district court to deliver judgement in May this year sentencing the actor to five years imprisonment under Section 304 A for causing death by negligence.
The High Court bench has given the verdict based on admissibility of new witnesses or not admissibility of some old witnesses in the case, especially his driver and gunman, besides his friend singer Kamaal Khan who was in the car when the mishap took place.
Citing the Supreme Court case of Alister Pereira and the applicability of section 304, Part II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) IPC under which Salman was convicted, the court said new evidence should have been examined by the lower court.
Justice A R Joshi, who heard Khan’s appeal against the five-year sentence by a sessions court, said: “This court has come to the conclusion that the prosection has failed to bring material on record to establish beyond reasonable doubt that the appellant (Salman Khan) was driving and was under the influence of alcohol, also, whether the accident occurred due to bursting (of tyre) prior to the incident or tyre burst after the incident.”
“When that was done, the case was being tried in a Magistrate’s court under section 304 A (causing death by negligence) which attracts a maximum jail term of two years or fine or both, while when it was tried in Sessions court, it was under section 304 Part two IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) which attracts jail term upto 10 years and fine.”
“The applicability of this evidence tendered before Magistrate’s court under section 33 of Indian Evidence Act cannot be taken as fullfilled in Sessions Court as the ingredients of the offence are different…”
“In the FIR on September 28, 2002, hours after the incident, he has not said anything about alcohol but he mentions this on October 1, 2002, in his supplementary statement….Then he also said that he asked (to Salman Khan) whether he would drive the car and also asked him to slow down. Unnatural on part of conduct of Patil to say so many things that he has not said in the FIR, there has been a material improvement on drunkeness and asking Salman to drive slowly….It is more strange from this witness.”
“The name of Ashok Singh has come on record and that he was a driver in the employment of Salim Khan, the father of appellant-accused….Besides, PW-27 (Inspector Kishan Shengal) has said that he had interrogated Ashok Singh and his statement was not recorded,” the Judge said.
The Judge questioned why the police withheld “actor-singer Kamaal Khan from coming to the witness box.”
“Necessary adverse inference needs to be drawn,” Justice Joshi said, adding that non-examination of an eye-witness is detrimental to the case of the prosecution unless he is not available or won over,” he said.
“The process (of summoning Kamaal) was issued at his old Mumbai address that he gave when his statement under 161 Cr.PC (before a Magistrate) was to be recorded in 2002 – and not the address that he provided to the Magistrate’s Court in 2008 – when he sought permission to go abroad…(His) corroboration could have been obtained on the issue of driving and drunkenness,” the Judge said.