“Getting the Supreme Court to overturn the Bombay High Court verdict acquitting Salman Khan and sending the matinee idol to prison would help Mumbai Police clear its face blackened by the allegations made by Chota Rajan and the Sheena Bora murder case. … Rightly or wrongly, Salman Khan’s acquittal in the Bombay High Court has resulted in a lot of people in India losing its faith in the police and the judiciary.” – T.S.V. Hari
Bollywood ‘superstar’ Salman Khan walked ‘free’ from the cavernous building located in south Mumbai that houses one of the halls of the Bombay High Court where judge A. R. Joshi pronounced him ‘honourably acquitted of all charges’ in the so-called hit-and-run case.
The prosecution had lasted 13 years.
The acquittal was mainly based on 2 aspects.
The first aspect was the ‘unreliable’ nature of the deposition of prosecution witness—Constable Ravindra Patil—once sent by the Mumbai Police to guard Salman Khan. The second was the shoddy method of the police probe.
“Patil was not a wholly reliable witness,” the judge observed.
Joshi cited the numerous changes in the statements made by Patil during the course of the trial to establish this.
Patil was the lone witness to testify in court as an impartial person and also as a person present in the car when the event took place. Patil had said that Salman was under the influence of alcohol while driving rashly.
“Even if Patil’s statement has to be considered as partially reliable, its corroborative evidence does not exist in this case. The prosecution has conducted the investigation in an absolutely shoddy and unprofessional manner,” Joshi observed in his ruling.
Is 50-year-old Salman Khan aka Abdul Rashid Salim Salman Khan the victim of a ‘dishonourable’ acquittal, in the 13-year-long ‘hit-and-run’ case?
Did others suffer because of such a ‘dishonourable’ acquittal?
Did Salman himself suffer because of the long trial?
Will Salman’s acquittal grant him peace henceforth?
The matinee idol can answer the queries on the basis of the following:
- As per the laws in 2002, Salman would have been made to pay a hefty fine and his 21-day incarceration in October that year would have been deemed as the sentence. He could have walked free then—thanks to his pricey lawyers. That did not happen.
The chargesheet filed against Salman Khan
IPC 304 (II) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), IPC 279 (rash driving), IPC 337 (act dangerous to lives of others) and IPC 338 (causing grievous hurt to others)
Under the Motor Vehicles Act:
Section 3 (driving without licence), 134 A (not rendering medical aid), 134 B (not informing police), 185 (drunken state) and 187 (rash driving)
Section 66 (1) (b) of the Prohibition Act, which prohibits a person from driving after consuming alcohol.
Under Section 304 Indian Penal Code, the prosecution must prove:
- The death of the person in question.
As per police records, one person N. Sharif had died.
- Such death was caused by the act of the accused.
The car carrying Salman Khan caused the death. Khan was accused of driving the car.
- The accused intended by such act to cause death.
This could never have been proven as Khan never had any enmity with the deceased or his company or his relatives.
- The accused intended by such act to cause such bodily injury as was likely to cause death
This could never be proven by the prosecution because the paths of the accused and the deceased never cross but for the fateful day of the incident.
- The accused knew that such act of his would be likely to cause death.
The benefit of doubt would have gone to the accused because the fourth condition of proving a case under Section 304 does not apply here.
- Could Salman Khan have walked free in 2003 itself?
Operative portion from the judgement pronounced by Judge Mukta Gupta, Delhi High Court in 2011 indicates such a possibility. Excerpts:
Petitioner (Ranbir Singh) challenges the order on sentence directing him to undergo Simple Imprisonment for a period of six months and to pay a fine of Rs 5,000/- under Section 304A IPC and in default of payment of fine to undergo an additional Simple Imprisonment for one month and also the sentence to pay the fine of Rs 5,000/- under Section 279 IPC and in default of payment of fine to undergo Simple Imprisonment for one additional month in a case where the Petitioner had entered into plea bargaining.
While awarding the maximum sentence the learned Trial Court failed to consider the mitigating factors.
No doubt the Petitioner was rash and negligent in his act, however, he was a first time offender which fact has not been considered at all by the learned Trial Court.
Therefore, in the interest of justice and keeping in view the law that while awarding sentence a balance sheet of aggravating and mitigating circumstances have to be kept in mind, the order on sentence of the Petitioner is modified to the extent that the Petitioner would have undergone a sentence of imprisonment for a period of four months for offence punishable under Section 304A IPC and a fine of Rs 1,000/- for offence punishable under Section 279 IPC and in default of payment of fine to undergo Simple Imprisonment for a period of one week (reference).
The following incidents have to be remembered
- Salman had been an under judicial custody for 21 days in 2002.
- Salman had deposited Rs. 19 lakhs towards possible damages awarded to the dead and the injured.
Would the trial judge have been adequately lenient to let Salman off lightly?
None could have been sure of that.
But, the speed with which Salman got bail upon the conviction in May 2015 from the High Court, Salman’s lawyers could have sprung him even in 2003!
- What would have that resulted in?
- Salman would have been spared of the trauma of fighting the case for 13 years.
- The deceased—Nurullah Sharif and the other injured could have got compensated out of the Rs.19 lakhs deposited in court in 2002 when Salman got bail.
- Who benefited from the trial?
Obviously, the big team of lawyers engaged by Salman Khan gained a lot of money out of this.
- Who lost due to the trial?
— Salman has been facing the punishment for 13 years. He did not marry as the case was pending. This is an accident in which a person got killed but has anyone thought of the punishment he is facing. I am proud of our judiciary, the justice has been done, said celebrated showman producer director Subhash Ghai.
— I was injured, I broke my leg. I have small children but I cannot work because of my injuries. How do I earn and make my children eat? We have been waiting for justice and compensation for the last 13 years but are yet to receive it. I have small children and am worried about their education and how to bring them up, said Abdulla, a victim.
— The family of another injured Abdul Sheikh, whose legs had got crushed under the actor’s vehicle, also voiced dissatisfaction over Bombay High Court judgement and demanded adequate compensation and allowance from the film star.The court should also have thought about us…. Salman Khan should give us sustenance allowance and compensation, said Reshma, the wife of one of the victims, Abdul Sheikh.
— “We were told we will get a compensation of Rs 10 lakh, but what will we do of that amount at this time of inflation,” family of Nurullah Sharif who died in the mishap said.
— Police constable Ravindra Patil—Khan’s government provided guard lost his life (** see reference below). He had rushed to the nearest cop house immediately after the event, registered a First Information Report (FIR) alleging drunken driving.
— People are saying he has just walked away. He has been in the jail for few days. He has spent over Rs 20-25 crores (on the case). Besides this, what about the tension that he and everyone went through all this time? Salim Khan [Salman’s father] said.
There is no indication on the proportion of this spend on his own legal team.
“A considerable amount of money must have been spent of lawyers and police officers from the prosecution side if one takes judge Joshi’s slam on the investigation seriously,” a seasoned crime correspondent in Mumbai remarked.
— The splurge on lawyers in the case is far from over. The Maharashtra state home department is mulling an appeal against the High Court verdict in the Supreme Court. The appeal is bound to have unexpected twists and turns because of 2 men – both of whom are backers of Salman Khan – viz. Britain based singer Kamal Khan and the actor’s driver Ashok Singh.
The ‘good turns’ the two did for Salman could turn sour.
Kamaal Khan actually has left his friend in a soup.
Excerpts from a report in the Indian Express
A day after the Bombay High Court acquitted Salman Khan in the 2002 hit-and-run case, the Bollywood superstar withdrew his plea from the Supreme Court seeking examination of his friend and singer Kamaal Khan as a court witness in the case.
A division bench headed by Justice Madan B. Lokur allowed Salman’s lawyer to withdraw his appeal. After the Bombay High Court judgement exonerating the actor, the matter had become meaningless.
The Bombay High Court had dismissed Salman’s plea for the same in November—eleven days before the denouement.
Excerpt from a report in the Hindustan Times when Salman Khan had been convicted to undergo 5 years imprisonment in May 2015
Singer Kamaal Khan was in the car with Salman Khan when the actor’s car crashed into the bakery at Bandra. A key witness in the case, Kamaal has never been asked to depose before the court.
In his statement to the police, Kamaal had said Khan was behind the wheel at the time of the accident.
Kamaal Khan Mohammed Abdul Khan, age: 33, profession: singer address: 902, Parshuram Puriya Tower, Yamuna Nagar, Oshiwara, Andheri (West), Mumbai – 52.
I stay at this address since June 2002. I have purchased the flat from the previous owner. I reside in the United Kingdom, where my mother and brother live. I am a British citizen while my parents are Indians. I work as a singer and I come to India for recording songs in Hindi films. I have a visa up to 2003. My passport is British.
Actor Salman Khan is known to me since 1998. He is a resident of Galaxy Apartments, B. J. Road, Bandra (West). I also personally know Salman’s father Salim and his other family members.
On the night of September 27, 2002, I went to meet Salman at his residence and we planned to have dinner outside. Salman, his bodyguard and I went out in a Land Cruiser to Rain Hotel at Juhu.
His brother Sohail and his bodyguard came in a different vehicle. We had reached the hotel around 11pm and it was very crowded.
Salman, Sohail and I had snacks at the service counter. After about an hour or two, we left for J. W. Marriott Hotel in the white Land Cruiser. After spending some time there, we left.
Salman sat to drive the vehicle, while his bodyguard sat next to him. I was behind the driver’s seat.
An employee of the hotel came up to us to say good night. Salman asked him, “How many of you work here?” When the man replied five, Salman asked me to give him a tip of Rs 500.
Salman was driving and we started to head to his house. We were heading from St Andrew’s Road to Hill Road. While taking a right turn, Salman lost control of the car and it went on the steps of a building and crashed into a shutter.
I heard shouts and people gathered around the car. The crowd was shouting “Salman come out”. Some were trying to help the injured. When we got down, people pushed us. Salman’s bodyguard told the people he was a policeman, which calmed down the crowd.
Mumbai police did not summon Kamaal Khan to depose before the lower court.
Operative excerpt from the report filed by Sunitra Pacheco in The Indian Express
Kamaal Khan was never examined as a prosecution witness in the Salman Khan 2002 hit-and-run case.
On the night of the incident, he is said to have run away from the spot along with convicted actor, Salman Khan.
However, his statement was later recorded by the Bandra Police.
The deposition of Ashok Singh has set a trap for many if the matter reaches the Supreme Court.
The star witness—whose deposition was indirectly upheld by the Bombay High Court to dismiss Patil’s statement as ‘unreliable’—was Ashok Singh.
Excerpts from a report by Priyanka Srivastava for Daily O on May 6 2015
Ashok Singh, Salman Khan’s driver gave a dramatic twist to the thirteen-year-long hit-and-run case in its last leg.
Salman’s loyal knight readily offered his neck and took the blame for what happened on that fateful night in September 2002.
Ashok Singh, 48, is Salman’s loyal driver, who started working for him when the actor was still taking baby steps towards stardom.
The driver enjoys the sobriquet “Salman ka driver” given to him in the modest locality near Four Bungalows in Andheri, where he lives in a small house with wife Anita and two sons.
Anita stood by her husband for “showing his loyalty” and marching to the court to take the blame.
Anita refuted the charges that her husband was bribed to make the confessions in the court. It took twelve long years for her husband to muster courage to go to the court and make the confession that “the tyre was burst”, and that “he was behind the wheel.” Every time he visited the police station with an intention to confess, Singh would find the police and the media hounding Salman Khan, which made him all the more nervous, Anita said.
Ashok was dismissed as a “liar” by the prosecution.
So, who drove the car that killed N. Sharif and injured 6 others?
Excerpts from the report filed by Hindustan Times reporter Ayesha Arvind
The Bombay high court verdict says there’s not enough evidence to prove actor Salman Khan was inebriated and driving the Toyota Land Cruiser.
But it has left a 13-year-old mystery unresolved: Who, then, was behind the wheel?
The prosecution had failed to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that the actor was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident and was drunk, the judge ruled.
None of the victims could identify the driver at the time.
The trap waiting to be sprung in the Supreme Court
A lot has been said against the unprofessional conduct of Mumbai police.
As per law, the Sessions judge who had found Salman Khan guilty ought to have asked the police to register a case against Ashok Singh for attempted subversion of justice through perjury—as the court had called him a liar.
This was not done.
Having found that the prosecution did not prove that Salman was driving the vehicle on the fateful day under the influence of liquor, High Court judge Joshi acquitted Khan.
Judge Joshi had rejected the testimony of the dead man—Patil.
Joshi did not adequately comment on the evidence given by Ashok Singh and its dismissal by the lower court.
The judge ought to have ordered the Mumbai Police to find out the truth about the ‘hit and run’ incident that caused the death of Nurullah Sharif and injured a few others. The obvious candidate—if that is to be done at all—the man to be detained for interrogation is Ashok Singh.
If Driver Ashok Singh is ever tried for perjury or rash and negligent driving, what could his defence be?
Technically, he could say that he committed perjury—and get away less than a rap on the knuckles.
The Indian Penal Code (IPC) under Section 191 defines perjury as “giving false evidence” and by interpretation it includes the statements retracted later as the person is presumed to have given a “false statement” earlier or later, when the statement is retracted. But hardly anyone, including the legal experts, could recall a single case in which a person was prosecuted for making a false statement before the court.
Under section 191 of IPC, an affidavit is evidence and a person swearing to a false affidavit is guilty of perjury punishable under Section 193 IPC which prescribes the period of punishment as seven years imprisonment. However, action against making a false statement should be initiated during the trial itself, and not at the end of it—which may take a long time. That may be a deterrent against persons who intentionally mislead the court or make false statements under oath or file tainted affidavits much against the public good. This is one of the reasons—initiating action against a person for perjury after the trial is over—why in India several perjury cases go totally unnoticed as a fresh trial begins on perjury running into years.
In 2002, Best Bakery, a local bakery in Vadodara, India was burned down by a mob. Zaheera Sheikh, the daughter of the bakery’s owner, lost her entire family in the riot and was a key witness to the case. However, she later retracted her statement saying she didn’t see anything during that terrible night.
But, by admitting to perjury, Singh’s statement would imply that Salman had driven the ill-fated car.
In the event of Maharashtra government preferring an appeal against the High Court acquittal of Khan, in the Supreme Court, the actor would be in trouble.
Singh could accept the rap and go to prison for causing the death of N. Sharif and injuring 6 others if Mumbai Police ever decides to file a case against Singh.
The story-line of 1973 mega-hit Hindi film Zanjeer: One of the earliest screenplays co-authored by Salim along with celebrated poet and M. P. Javed is woven around the vendetta of an angry police officer (played by Amitabh Bachchan) avenging the murder of his parents (played by M. Rajan and Purnima Das Verma) at the hands of his baddie boss (Ajit Khan). The character played by Rajan goes to prison to save his boss and upon release—tells his boss that he has decided to give up work. The baddie character ‘Teja’ decides to kill his faithful retainer to ensure that dead men tell no tales.
In another successful film Yaadon ki Baaraat: Salim-Javed created a character Jack (played by the late Satyen Kappu) who serves a long prison sentence to save his boss Shakaal (Ajit Khan) and upon release is murdered by the same boss.
If it ever comes to that, can the family of Ashok Singh be sure that he would not come to a bad end in prison at the hands of the cops who would get even through the unfortunate man to send a chilling message to Salman Khan whose defence besmirched their reputation in the High Court?
Would Anita, the wife of Ashok Singh allow her husband to take the rap and go to prison on Salman’s behalf keeping the characters jointly created by Salim Khan—Salman’s father when the old man wrote scripts?
Would the two children of Ashok Singh say that their father was only repaying the debt to his employer—Salman?
But then, those are hypothetical issues that may arise only if the Mumbai Police decides to proceed against Singh.
Then there is the question of an appeal to be filed by the Government of Maharashtra against the High Court verdict.
The fly in the ointment in such an eventuality is the witness—who had testified in the police station—that Salman was indeed behind the wheel—Kamaal Khan—an admitted friend of Salman and his family.
Kamaal Khan has given a statement to the police that Salman was indeed driving the car on the fateful day.
In the light of Mumbai’s deadly enemy David Coleman Headley being given a conditional reprieve by the Government of India by blowing everyone away through a video-conference testimony from faraway in the US of A, it would not be impossible for Mumbai Police to produce a verified video-conference statement from Kamaal Khan—from Britain and introduce the same in the Apex Court appeal.
Salman cannot even oppose it because it was he who had sought Kamaal’s examination through the Supreme Court when the actor’s appeal was pending in the Bombay High Court.
Of course—Kamaal can always say that he had given the statement under duress in 2002—alleging threats by the cops.
Arguably, that would give Mumbai Police a golden chance to get at Ashok Singh and send him to jail—to clear the muck on their faces flung by Judge Joshi.
For Mumbai Police—doing something that way would be dead easy—because that would mean—an appeal not being filed in the Supreme Court against Salman’s acquittal. This situation would suit Salman as well.
These days, prisons are the private preserve of the underworld—where the cops also play their games of vendetta.
Those in any doubt could refer to the number of accused in vital cases.
- Ram Singh, one of the accused in the notorious Nirbhaya rape case was found dead—by hanging—in the high security Tihar prison in March 2013.
- Five months later the same year, another accused in the same case—Vinay Sharma demanded protection stating his limbs were fractured during attacks in the same prison.
Being the driver of Salman Khan, Ashok Singh would be privy to most of the star’s secrets—sought by many—which includes the underworld, the police, income tax sleuths and politicians—to name just four groups.
Would Khan and/or Singh’s family risk Singh’s hypothetical incarceration if he sticks to being the fall guy to save Salman the blushes in SC?
Kamaal Khan’s evidence is a double-edged sword—usable by both Salman and the Mumbai Police.
Getting Ashok Singh convicted would get the case closed—but that would further smear the countenance of Mumbai Police.
Getting the Supreme Court to overturn the Bombay High Court verdict acquitting Salman Khan and sending the matinee idol to prison would help Mumbai Police clear its face blackened by the allegations made by Chota Rajan and the Sheena Bora murder case.
It would also create controversy.
The extreme right-wing forces would hail the hypothetical event. Nothing would please the so-called ‘intolerant saffron gang’ more.
That possibility could also set the anti-minority mythical carnivorous cat amongst the secular pigeons of India and vice versa.
It wouldn’t matter to anyone that it was a simple case of drunken driving that left one person dead on the spot, injured a few others. It also forced Patil—the constable—to suffer for five years and die a painful, inglorious, lonely death.
Rightly or wrongly, Salman Khan’s acquittal in the Bombay High Court has resulted in a lot of people in India losing its faith in the police and the judiciary.
The overturning of that verdict by the SC could render the whole thing worse.
Now, the four questions asked in the beginning are being repeated:
Is 50-year-old Salman Khan aka Abdul Rashid Salim Salman Khan the victim of a ‘dishonourable’ acquittal, in the 13-year-long ‘hit and run’ case?
Did others suffer because of such a ‘dishonourable’ acquittal?
Did Salman himself suffer because of the long trial?
Will Salman’s acquittal grant him peace henceforth?
The simple, straight answer to the first three questions is known to almost 90 percent of India that is Bharat. And that answer is yes multiplied by three.
The last question would get a reply in the negative.
Would anyone say so openly?
The answer to this one is NO!
The biggest losers in this whole fixed-match that has played India that is Bharat for 13 long years are—the system of policing, judiciary, the legal process and the faith of the people in governance.
In a simple sentence: Salman’s dishonourable acquittal will prove to be Pyrrhic to everyone in India.
** Excerpts from Mumbai-based investigative reporter Kunal Anand’s report
In early 2002, Salman had filed a police report complaining about threatening calls from the underworld.
The police concluded that there was a threat to the actor’s life. So they appointed the then 24-year-old constable Ravindra Patil as Salman’s unarmed bodyguard, to shadow him everywhere.
On the 28th of September that year, Salman was drinking at Juhu’s J. W. Marriott hotel in Juhu, while Patil waited in his car outside.
On October 1, 2002, after the receipt of Salman’s blood test report, Patil gave a statement before a magistrate saying that the actor had taken drinks on the ill-fated day and he had warned him not to drive rashly or else he would meet with an accident but Salman did not pay heed to his advice.
Only Patil knew if Salman was drunk, speeding, and had been warned by Patil to slow down. All these were true, but Salman denied it all. Other witnesses changed their narrative and soon turned hostile, but not Patil.
This was despite Patil claiming that he had faced pressure from Salman’s lawyers to change his statement.
The last time when someone really considered Ravindra Patil as a “Human Being” was when he was fighting for life in a municipal hospital, suffering from a strain of tuberculosis that was drug resistant. He was possibly coughing out his last breath on the cold hospital floor, alone. His family had cut him out of their life, and they didn’t even claim or collect his body—they simply didn’t care.
The events in Patil’s life between 2002 and 2007 lend the acquittal a sinister aura.
Constable Patil hailed from Satara, west-central Maharashtra. He was recruited into the ranks of Mumbai Police as a commando constable in Special Operations Squad (SOS).
The SOS is part of Mumbai Police’s Anti Terrorism Squad started in 1990 by then Additional Commissioner of Mumbai Police Aftab Ahmed Khan—a.k.a. A. A. Khan.
Since its formation in 1990, the squad has bagged 23 gallantry awards.
It is said to have been modelled after the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) section of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).
ATS was disbanded in 1993, but the SOS continues its existence.
Its primary duty is to guard VIPs.
Following threats from the underworld, in, 2002, Patil was assigned to be Salman’s bodyguard.
On the night of the incident, Patil arrived at the Bandra Police Station and stated that Khan drove under the influence, lost control of his SUV and mowed down several persons.
The FIR was filed on that basis.
The Bandra police arrested Salman based on Patil’s statement.
Almost immediately, citing him as a ‘prime witness’ in a high-profile case, Patil was removed from his duties as an SOS commando.
Patil constantly went on leave.
Press reports suggested that Patil was under pressure to retract his statement on which the FIR was based. A dejected man, Patil chose to stay away from work for ‘long, unexplained periods.’
Patil was one of the 27 prosecution witnesses whose depositions were meant to nail Khan.
Reports said that he had remained ‘missing’ and police described his absence as AWOL.
A ‘man-missing’ complaint was filed by Patil’s brother.
Upon seeing that complaint, the court issued a warrant of arrest against Patil.
On the basis of the warrant, Patil was dismissed from service.
Patil was finally tracked down to a ‘hotel’ in the hill station of Mahabaleshwar—not far from his hometown.
He was arrested and sent to prison to prepare for his deposition in 2006. When he appeared in court, he was still a remand prisoner without bail.
Yet, Patil’s testimony was enough to convict Khan.
“It was Patil’s testimony which helped in convicting Salman Khan on all charges and sentencing him to undergo five years imprisonment,” said public prosecutor Pradeep Gharat.
Since his deposition, Patil was released from prison.
Patil’s family reportedly ‘disowned’ the man.
“My wife has divorced me,” Patil is said to have told a reporter.
Reporters traced him to a tuberculosis clinic in Sewri, Mumbai in September 2007.
Patil is said to have told hospital staff that he had arrived by borrowing money to reach the place.
“He had said that for quite some time, Patil had begged in Mumbai,” a source had been quoted as saying.
“The man weighed a mere 30 kg and seemed to be a skin-bag containing a few bones,” a news report said in October 2007.
Patil died on October 4, 2007.
What triggered a healthy man—alert enough to file an FIR within minutes of an event of drunken driving to become irresponsible enough not to attend courts?
Why was Patil kept in prison till he testified?
Was his ‘irresponsible behaviour’ and arrest—primarily to testify in a murder case—enough ground to sack him from the force?
Why did Patil’s family disown him?
If Patil’s unexplained, deteriorating conduct and health are indications, another question emerges: Judge Joshi’s observation in his acquittal ruling:
“Even if Patil’s statement has to be considered as partially reliable, its corroborative evidence does not exist in this case. The prosecution has conducted the investigation in an absolutely shoddy and unprofessional manner.” .
Should one read more in this 32-word paragraph?
Two disjointed sentences form an eerie backgrounder to the entire episode:
Salman had been repeatedly advised by Patil not to drive under the influence.
Patil refused to retract from his original statement despite alleged great pressure from Salman Khan’s defence team. – Incubation, 12 December 2015
» T.S.V. Hari is a senior journalist in Mumbai.