Mumbai, Dec 5 (PTI): Eleven years after Salman Khan got embroiled in a hit-and-run case, a Sessions Court today ordered a fresh trial on the ground that witnesses had not been examined in the context of aggravated charge of culpable homicide which was invoked against the actor midway through the proceedings.
Hearing Salman’s plea for a fresh trial, Judge DW Deshpande held that the trial would be held de novo (fresh) as the actor had not been given an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses vis-a-vis the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder which attracts a 10-year sentence.
The Bollywood superstar had earlier been tried by a Magistrate for a lesser offence of causing death by negligence which entailed imprisonment of two years.
The Judge also said since enough time had already been spent in conducting the trial, proceedings would be fast-tracked.
The evidence adduced before the Magistrate would not be considered and all witnesses who had appeared earlier would be examined and cross-examined afresh, the Judge ruled and adjourned the matter to December 23 to enable the prosecution to produce a list of witnesses.
On that day, the court would fix the date for the trial to begin.
The case, dragging on for over a decade, had taken a twist earlier this year when the Magistrate, after examining 17 witnesses, held that the charge of culpable homicide was made out against Salman and referred the matter to a Sessions Court as cases under this offence are triable by a higher court.
Salman Khan’s lawyer Srikant Shivade challenged the ruling of the Magistrate in the Sessions Court, contending that the Lower Court had failed to appreciate that the actor had neither the intention nor knowledge that his rash and negligent driving would kill a person and injure others.
The Sessions Court rejected Salman’s argument and upheld the Magistrate’s ruling.
In the Sessions Court, Salman pleaded for a fresh trial, saying since the aggravated charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder had been invoked he should be given an opportunity to cross examine all the witnesses.
A key witness Ravindra Patil, who was police bodyguard of Salman and was in the car when the mishap happened, had told the police in a statement that the actor was warned by him not to drive rashly or else he would meet with an accident but his advice went unheeded.
However, the actor had pointed out contradictions in his statement earlier in the Magistrate’s court.
As Patil passed away during the trial, he cannot be examined or cross-examined but his statement can be used in the fresh trial as evidence, said a lawyer.
The Sessions Court had on July 24 framed charges against Salman for culpable homicide.
Apart from section 304(2) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), the Bollywood superstar has also been charged under sections 279 (causing death by negligence), 337 (causing hurt by an act), 338 (causing grievous hurt), 427 (causing damage or mischief to property) of IPC, and provisions of Motor Vehicles Act and Bombay Prohibition Act.
On September 28, 2002, a Toyota Land Cruiser allegedly driven by Salman, had crushed a group of people sleeping on a pavement outside a bakery in suburban Bandra, killing one and injuring four.