The sensational case of bollywood actor Salman Khan came to a partial end on Wednesday with the court sentencing him to five years in jail for a 2002 hit-and-run accident here that left one man dead and 4 injured.
As Additional Sessions Judge D.W. Deshpande, who earlier found him guilty on all the charges, pronounced the sentence in a packed courtroom in Mumbai, the 49-year-old Salman was in tears. His sisters, Alvira and Arpita, tried to console him although they themselves were crying.
One of the highest paid actors in Bollywood, Salman was sentenced for culpable homicide not amounting to murder, driving without valid licence and other charges.
The judge also held Salman guilty of rash and negligent driving when he was behind the wheel of his Land Cruiser that killed the victim on a footpath in suburban Bandra in September 2002.
Special Public Prosecutor Pradeep Gharat said the court has found Salman guilty on all counts.
Defence lawyer Shrikant Shivade, who pleaded for a milder sentence keeping in view the social services the actor was involved in and his medical problems, is expected to move the Bombay High Court.
Legal experts said the time was too short for Salman’s defence team as the court will close for the annual summer vacation after three days (from May 9) and reopen only on June 7.
Salman, known for giving blockbusters like “Kick”, “Wanted” and “Ek Tha Tiger”, has acted in nearly 100 movies since he made his debut in 1988 with “Biwi Ho Toh Aisi” as a supporting actor.
The film that brought him glory was the 1989 hit “Maine Pyar Kiya”.
Filmmakers, musicians and actors expressed solidarity with the mega star.
“We all know that Salman is excellent as human who can’t fight with destiny,” said Subhash Ghai, Bollywood producer and director.
Actor-producer Riteish Deshmukh called Salman one of the “finest people I have met in this industry”.
Actress Bipasha Basu added: “Salman is the nicest human being in this business… Deeply saddened.”
Actress-producer Dia Mirza said: “He is the man (who) saved my mother’s life. That I will never forget.”
Actress Sonakshi Sinha, Salman’s co-star in “Dabangg”, called the verdict “terrible news”.
Director Kunal Kohli said he was “heartbroken”.
Actress Alia Bhatt, daughter of filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, tweeted: “We love you and are standing by you.”
But activist lawyer Abha Singh said justice has finally been done.
“I am very happy,” she told the media. “Justice has been done. The law has been upheld.”
She said the long delay had given the impression that the rich could get away with murder in India, and that the moneyed were above the law.
Abha Singh had sought to intervene in the Sessions Court on Wednesday with an application seeking to record the witness statement of one of Salman’s friends, singer Kamaal Khan, who was in the killer vehicle.
Judge Deshpande declined to accept the application. The court also rejected the belated statement by Salman’s driver Ashok Singh owning up responsibility for the accident. The prosecution is contemplating charging him with perjury.
Salman is likely to be taken into police custody and, after a medical examination, will be sent to the Arthur Road Central Jail in south Mumbai.
This is the third case of a high-profile Bollywood actor going to jail in Mumbai.
In May 2013, actor Sanjay Dutt was convicted for his role in the 1993 Mumbai serial bombings and sentenced to five years in jail. He is lodged in Pune’s Yerwada Central Jail.
In March 2011, a Mumbai Sessions Court sentenced actor Shiney Ahuja to seven years for raping his domestic help in 2009. Since April 2011, he is out on bail, pending a hearing of his appeal against the sentence.