Appearing before a Mumbai court in connection with the 2002 hit-and-run case, Bollywood star Salman Khan's driver said on Monday he was at the wheel when the actor's white Toyota Land Cruiser mowed down a pavement dweller.
Facing questions from the prosecution, driver Ashok Singh said he was not given any money to depose before the court. The accident took place because of a tyre burst, Singh said, when he was examined by the defense as their witness.
"When I took a right turn to Hill Road, car's front tyre on the left burst and... my vehicle moved towards the left. I tried to control but the steering became hard. I had even tried to apply the brakes but by that time the vehicle had already climbed the stairs, and stopped."
He said that he was called to drive the car from JW Marriot hotel, and from there he was to drive to the actor's home.
Singh corroborated the Bollywood actor's claim who -- during the 2002 hit-and-run case proceedings on Friday -- had said he was neither driving the vehicle at the time of the accident nor was he drunk. Khan had testified before additional sessions judge DW Deshpande that his driver was at the wheel that night.
While cross-examining him, special public prosecutor Pradeep Gharat, however, alleged that Singh was paid huge sum of money to protect the actor and give false statement before the court.
The prosecution also asked Singh to explain why he had not appeared before a court or any forum till now. "If police had not recorded your statement, why did you not reveal this before any court, or person, or media since the beginning of the case? Why are you deposing this for the first time after so many years?" Gharat questioned him.
In reply, Singh added Salim Khan, the actor's father, told him to depose before the court and tell the truth.
Singh added that after the incident all of them were in shock, and that he was not in a state of mind to respond.
Actor Salman Khan's driver Ashok Singh arriving at sessions court in Mumbai. (PTI Photo)
In the early hours of September 28, 2002, Khan's vehicle had hit the American Express Bakery in suburban Bandra, close to his sea-front home in Galaxy Apartments and killed one.
Khan was arrested by Bandra Police later that morning in connection with the accident that also injured four people.
Denying the prosecution charges that he was inebriated at the time of the accident, Khan said he had not consumed liquor that night and claimed the evidence presented against him in the case was "false".
Khan disputed several witness accounts, including that of his police bodyguard the late Ravindra Patil, who had said the actor was seen coming out of the driving seat.
"My left door was jammed so I couldn't open it," Khan told the judge.
When confronted with the statements of a parking lot attendant, who had said he handed over the car to the actor, Khan said he did not remember.
The actor did not deny that he had gone to a bar with his brother Sohail Khan and some friends earlier that night, but said he never ordered any cocktails as indicated by the bills and only consumed water at the bar.
Sporting a white shirt and blue jeans, Khan arrived at the court at around 11am on Friday and his deposition started after about half an hour. He was accompanied by sisters Alvira and Arpita and a personal bodyguard.
The actor was ordered to appear personally before the judge to record his statement under Section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code, considered a crucial stage in the retrial of the case before the final arguments begin.
The actor is facing charges under IPC Section 304(II) -- culpable homicide not amounting to murder which attracts a 10-year jail sentence; Sec. 279 (rash driving); Sec. 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life of others); Sec. 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life); Sec. 427 (mischief causing damage); and under Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949.