Hit & run: Salman walks free

Popular belief not enough to hold someone guilty, says judge

Hit & run: Salman walks free
The Bombay High Court on Thursday acquitted actor Salman Khan of all charges in connection with a 13-year-old drunken driving and hit-and-run case, where one person was killed and four others were injured.

One of India’s highest-paid actors, Salman broke down when the verdict was pronounced by Justice A R Joshi. Salman, who has parallel images of “bad boy” and “man with a golden heart,” turns 50 this December 27 and there was a sense of jubilation within his family and Bollywood.

“The considered view of the court is that the prosecution has failed to establish its case...on the basis of this type of evidence, the appellant-accused (Salman Khan) cannot be convicted....appellant-accused is acquitted of all charges,” said Justice Joshi, who retires this month.

While the court held that Salman was an “occupant of the car,” the order is silent on who was at the wheel and why the car crashed killing one Nurullah Mehboob Sharif. The judge also slammed the Mumbai Police for shoddy investigation and the prosecution for failing to establish its case.

“Any strong suspicion, perception or popular belief cannot be enough to hold someone guilty. Prosecution has not brought material on record to prove the case...according to criminal jurisprudence, the burden is on the prosecution to prove its case,” said Justice Joshi. Criticising the Mumbai Sessions Court, Justice Joshi said that the appreciation of evidence is not “proper and legal” as per the set principles of criminal jurisprudence, like accepting the hotel bill without panchnama, which all together is riddled with fabrication.

“The evidence of Ravindra Patil (Salman’s police bodyguard) is rendered inadmissible,” Justice Joshi added. The Bandra police station has also been asked to return the actor’s passport. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said the Maharashtra government will decide on whether to approach the Supreme Court after going through the order.

The case

On September 28, 2002, Salman in a drunken state lost control of his car and rammed it onto the pavement of the American Express Bakery at the Hill Road-St Andrews Road junction here, killing Sharif and injuring four others.

On May 6, the Mumbai Sessions Court held him guilty of all counts and sentenced him to five years in jail. The same day he secured interim bail from the Bombay High Court, and on May 8 his appeal was admitted.

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