Can the 2002 hit-and-run involving actor Salman Khan be termed death by negligence (section 304A), instead of the stringent culpable homicide (section 304–II) -- the Bombay high court (HC) is likely to examine this aspect of the case. While Khan has been convicted and sentenced to five years’ rigorous imprisonment under the culpable homicide charge, the punishment for causing death due to negligence is a jail term of two years, fine, or both.
Arguing for bail during the pendency of his appeal in the HC, Khan’s lawyer Amit Desai said recklessness, actual knowledge that the reckless act is likely to result in death and actual death are necessary to categorise an act as culpable homicide. While there is no question over death in Khan’s case, the knowledge of the result of the action can be disputed.
Desai said the sessions court had relied on the Supreme Court judgment in the Alistair Pereira case, where it was assumed the accused was aware of the possible result of the act because he lived in the same locality where the accident took place. The same parameters cannot be applied to Khan, as his case is different, said Desai.
In his 240-page judgment, additional sessions judge DW Deshpande has held that Khan knew some people slept in front of the American Express Laundry, as the actor lived barely 200m away from the spot and drove frequently on the stretch at night.
Based on the evidence on record, the trial court judge concluded that Khan had visited Rain Bar, and a bar at the JW Marriott hotel on the night of the accident. While returning from the hotel to his residence, Khan was driving at high speed and under the influence of alcohol, as a result of which he lost control while taking a turn from Hill Road to St Andrews Road and crushed a labourer sleeping outside the laundry and injured four others, the judgment stated.