The Supreme Court on Tuesday admitted Maharashtra’s appeal against Bollywood actor Salman Khan’s acquittal in the 2002 hit-and-run case but declined to take up the matter early.
A bench headed by justice JS Khehar admitted the state’s petition after accepting the actor’s request to decide the case on the basis of merit. Under the top court’s rules once an appeal is admitted it comes up for hearing in due course.
This means the case against Khan’s is not likely to be heard before four years unless the SC decides to give it a priority. The top court declined the state government’s request to hear its plea in six months
“This is an accident case. We cannot expedite it just because x,y or z is involved,” justice Khehar told attorney general Mukul Rohatgi when he made the submission on behalf of Maharashtra.
“This is a case of 2002. By the time the appeal will come up for hearing many years would have gone by, we request you to list it after six months,” the law officer said, alluding to the long time the SC takes to hear admitted appeals.
But, the bench wasn’t inclined and told the AG he was at liberty to seek an early hearing from the Chief Justice of India.
Khan was acquitted in December last year after the Bombay high court ruled there was no evidence to prove he was on the wheels of his Land Cruiser that crushed one man to death outside a bakery in Bandra. Police alleged the star was drunk and lost control of his SUV when it ran over five people sleeping on a pavement.
In its appeal, the state government said the HC had erred in arriving at a conclusion that the investigation was conducted in a “careless and faulty manner.”
The appeal, filed by state counsel Nishant R Katneshwarkar, criticised the HC judgment on the ground it ignored Khan’s conduct who did not make any attempt to report the incident to the police soon after the accident.
While pronouncing the actor innocent, the HC had reversed the trial court’s May 2015 order that sentenced the actor to five years in jail .
According to the state, the actor’s defence that his driver was driving the vehicle was made before the trial court for the first time and 12 years after the incident. Never in the past did he ever reveal this fact when he defended himself in other litigations arising out of the case.
Maharashtra also denied the allegation that there was a delay in sending Khan’s blood sample for a lab test and was not properly preserved. The state government contended that the HC ignored the crucial statement of the injured witness who testified that Khan was in the driver’s seat.
The state insisted the court should have taken into account the evidence of the actor’s bodyguard, Ravindra Patil, recorded before a magistrate before the case was transferred to the sessions judge. Patil died by the time trial started in the case.
“The HC has not concluded as to who was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident,” the appeal questioning the basis of the HC verdict read.