The Bombay high court on Friday suspended the five-year jail term of actor Salman Khan in the 2002 hit-and-run case, triggering wild celebrations among his fans across the country.
The single bench of justice Abhay Thipsay, however, asked the 49-year-old actor to surrender his passport and seek fresh bail from the sessions court which had convicted and sentenced him on Wednesday.
“We can fix a date in June or July whether he is guilty or not,” the judge said while suspending the sentencing pending a fresh appeal. Khan was not present in court.
Later, Khan , accompanied by his team of lawyers, reached the sessions court, furnished a fresh bail bond for Rs 30,000 and having completed the formalities, left for home.
The star of some of Bollywood’s most commercially successful films is accused of running his SUV over five people sleeping on a Mumbai pavement, killing one of them.
Khan left for the sessions court at around 1.30pm to furnish fresh bail bond as his two-day interim bail period ends on Friday.
“We cannot take pleasure in the fact that someone is in custody. There is no law that says if there is alcohol (in blood) it is culpable homicide,” the justice said, adding, “This is not a case where the accused needs to be kept in detention.
“Even on the basis that there is sufficient evidence saying the accused was driving, several other conditions have to be taken into consideration.”
The hearing took a dramatic turn earlier when the Bollywood superstar’s lawyer asked why singer Kamaal Khan, who was in Salman’s car on the fateful night, had not been examined by the police.
Arguing for Khan, senior lawyer Amit Desai told the bench that the sessions judge who handed down the sentence to Khan had ignored crucial facts and there were no eye witnesses in the case. He said there was a dispute if there were three to four persons present in the car when the accident took place.
Thipsay sought the deposition of Ravindra Patil, a Mumbai Police constable who was the then bodyguard of Khan. Patil was the first to inform police about the accident, and it was on his statement that an FIR was registered at Bandra police station.
Desai told the court that one of the prosecution witnesses, a person who owned a shop next to the spot of the accident, had stated that he saw Salman coming out of the car.
"The witness also says that two (more) persons were also there (apart from Salman) and the police constable, but when he was cross-examined he says: 'I do not know where the two went'," Desai told the court.
Justice Thipsay said, "I want to know how many witnesses deposed before the sessions court and the magistrate court. I want to know whether the witnesses have had after thoughts."
Salman Khan, centre, and his father Salim Khan, second right, come out of their residence to see off a guest in Mumbai. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)
As the news of the court’s relief to the actor broke, hundreds of fans who had filled up every space available around the court premises and outside his residence, broke out in wild celebrations. At one point, police had to use force to disperse the fans outside the court.
A man in his 30s -- claiming to be a family member and fan of the actor – even consumed poison around noon while the hearing was on. He was rushed to a hospital nearby.