Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi on Friday termed the Bombay High Court verdict acquitting Bollywood actor Salman Khan in the 2002 hit-and-run case a travesty of justice and criticised the star for allegedly running away from the spot after the incident.
Arguing the Maharashtra government’s appeal against the acquittal, Rohatgi insisted before the Supreme Court that the high court erred in discarding the evidence of those injured after the actor allegedly ran them over in a drunken state. The actor’s Toyota Land Cruiser had crashed into five men sleeping outside a bakery in Bandra, killing one of them.
Pressing for a hearing of his appeal before a bench headed by justice JS Khehar, Rohatgi tried to make a case for the court to issue a notice to the actor. He said Khan’s defence that his driver was at the wheel during the accident was feeble and false. The driver, an employee of Khan’s family for 20 years, mysteriously surfaced 13 years after the incident when the trial reached the stage of defence evidence, Rohatgi said.
“Where was he for so many years? What was the accused doing? And if he (Khan) knew that his driver was the real culprit then why didn’t he hand him over to the police? If the driver’s version is true then the star is responsible for shielding an offender. He should then face prosecution for the same,” Rohatgi told the bench.
The court did not seem to be in a hurry to accept or reject the appeal at the outset. “We are still trying to make up our mind since it’s a petition against the acquittal,” the bench told Rohatgi who said the state was not asking for immediate conviction of the star. “We just want a hearing,” he said when the court fixed February 12 for further hearing.
The high court let off the accused in December after rejecting the prosecution theory that Khan was responsible for the incident. It said the police failed to establish Khan was at the wheel and overturned a trial court verdict that had sentenced him to five years in jail.
Rohatgi said there was enough circumstantial evidence to prove the incident on September 28, 2002 was caused by Khan after a night out drinking. “The forensic test conducted on his blood sample 48 hours after the accident showed presence of alcohol in his body,” the attorney general said.