Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
A man died and four persons were fatally injured under the wheels of actor Salman Khan’s uncontrolled car while sleeping on a footpath of Mumbai in the night of 27 September 2002, according to what the area magistrate had recorded the eye-witness accounts of Khan’s bodyguard Ravindra Patil. He was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment by the Sessions Court. But a single judge bench of the Bombay High Court has quashed that order and acquitted him completely of all the charges. This has shocked the people.
What was the eye-witness account? What had Patil deposed before the Magistrate?
According to him, Salman Khan and actor Kamaal Khan had gone to hotel (JW Marriott) when Patil was waiting in Salman’s Land Cruiser. They returned at about 2.15 am. Salman drove the car despite Patil’s advice that he should not drive when drunk. “He was drunk and was driving … at the speed of 90 to 100 kilometers per hour. Before coming to the junction of Hill Road, I told Salman to lower the speed”, Patil had stated under oath before the Magistrate. He had further stated, “He could not control his motor car while taking the right turn and it went on the footpath. The people were sleeping on the footpath. The motor car ran over (them)”.
This was almost the same as Salman’s friend and companion Kamaal Khan had told the Police on October 4, 2002. He had stated: “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 11 pm and it was very crowded.
Salman, Sohail and I had snacks at the service counter. After about an hour or two, we left for JW 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…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.”
When Police did not produce Kamaal Khan as witness in the Sessions Court, Patil met death in a pathetic condition during pendency of the case.
Now the High Court has concluded that the prosecution has failed to establish the guilt of Salman.
In its words, “For the reasons separately recorded in the judgment and order the following operative order is passed:
1) Criminal Appeal No.572 of 2015 preferred by appellant Salman Salim Khan is allowed;
2) The impugned judgment and order dated 6th may, 2015 passed in Sessions case No. 240 of 2013 is hereby quashed and set aside;
3) The appellant-accused Salman Salim Khan is acquitted of all the charges. The bail bonds of the accused shall stand cancelled;
4) If the fine amounts which are imposed in view of the impugned judgment and order, are already paid, the same shall be refunded back to him……….”
Of what value then are the eye-witness Statements of Salman’s body guard Patil before the Magistrate and of Salman’s friend and companion Kamaal Khan before the Police?
The High Court has of course directed Salman to execute a PR.bond under Section 437-A of Cr.PC. This Section requires the accused, before conclusion of the trial and before disposal of the appeal, to execute bail bonds with sureties, to appear before the higher Court as and when such court issues notice in respect of any appeal or petition filed against the judgment of the respective Court and such bail bonds shall be in force for “six” months.
What shall happen if the State of Maharastra does not prefer any appeal in the Supreme Court?
The very question is tormenting.
The matter looks like using law for covering up a very serious instance of illegality. Looking at askance the judiciary in such a situation would not be unnatural. Whether or not the State of Maharastra prefers appeal against the High Court order, the Supreme Court should do justice to the people of this dazzled country by instituting a special investigation into this case from its beginning to end and passing necessary orders after such investigation.
Justice should appear justified.
Let the Supreme Court ensure this.