Tyre burst caused accident, I was at wheel: Salman's driver to court

Tyre burst caused accident, I was at wheel: Salman's driver to court

In a dramatic development in the 2002 hit-and-run case involving actor Salman Khan, his driver Ashok Singh on Monday claimed in a sessions court here that he was behind the wheel and not the actor when the accident took place 13 years ago.

The 42-year-old is the first defence witness to be examined. Singh made the statement before additional sessions judge D W Deshpande.

The prosecution, however, has completely rejected his claims.

On Friday, Salman, whose statement was recorded under Section 313 of the CrPC, had claimed that he was neither drunk nor driving the car, and that his driver Singh was behind the wheel of the vehicle.

While replying to queries from Salman’s lawyer Shrikant Shivade, Singh corroborated the statement made by the actor, who has been charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

“I was driving the car,” he told the court.

Describing the sequence of events, he said that on that night, one of the car’s tyres burst, following which it dragged to the left.

“I tried to turn the steering wheel but it was hard and then I applied the brakes but by that time the car climbed the stairs of the bakery,” he said.

“I was in a state of shock and Salman was sitting on the left side. He tried to open the door but it got jammed. He got down from my side which was on the right,” said Singh.

He said Altaf, another driver who worked for Salman, had called him at 1:30 am that day, asking him to pick up the actor at the J W Marriott Hotel because he (Salman) was not well.

Singh said he reached the hotel in an autorickshaw and saw the actor sitting on the driver’s side with the engine running and air conditioning on. “As Altaf had left, I got into the driver’s seat. Salman sat on my left and his friend Kamal Khan and police bodyguard Ravindra Patil sat behind,” he said.

Singh said after the accident, he informed the police on “100” and then went to the Bandra police station and informed the duty officers, who asked him to sit on a bench outside.

When Salman arrived there, he was arrested. “I told him (Salman) that I suspected something fishy as the police did not take down my complaint/statement,” Singh added.

During the cross-examination by special public prosecutor Pradeep Gharat, Singh denied that he was giving a false statement because he had been paid a huge amount of money. Singh said he was employed by Salman’s father Salim Khan in 1990.

Singh denied that he was ready to sacrifice his life for Salman, but admitted that he was devoted to the family.

To another question, he said he was aware that one person had died and others were injured in the accident, and he had committed an offence.
When asked by the prosecutor why he kept quiet, Singh said that he could not decide what to do.

Singh further said that he came to the court after Salim advised him to do so. Singh is still working with Salman’s family. The hearing was adjourned to April 1.

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