The Bombay high court on Wednesday observed that the prosecution has not been able “to prove beyond reasonable doubt” that actor Salman Khan was driving the car or was under the influence of alcohol in 2002 when the vehicle met with an accident.
Justice AR Joshi also said it was difficult to rely on the testimony of late Ravindra Patil, the police bodyguard assigned to Salman who was in the vehicle the night the vehicle mowed down one pavement dweller and injured four others in Bandra West on September 28, 2002.
Justice Joshi went on to say Patil was the only one who testified to having seen Khan drive the car, however, he was not a “wholly reliable witness” considering the numerous “improvements” he made in his version while his statement was being recorded.
“Even if Patil’s statement has to be considered as partially reliable, there has to be corroboration in evidence which does not exist in this case,” Justice Joshi said.
The dictation of the verdict on Salman’s appeal, which continued for the third day, is likely to end on Thursday when the fate of the 49-year-old actor could be decided.
The court also observed that the prosecution had failed to prove that the left front tyre of Khan’s car had burst owing to the impact of the accident that night. Khan in his defence has maintained that the left front tyre had burst while he was on Hill Road in Bandra and thus, the car had swivelled out of control towards the left, thus, running over those sleeping on the pavement.
Justice Joshi also made crucial observations on defence witness and Khan’s driver Ashok Singh and on singer Kamal Khan, the second eyewitness to the incident, who was not examined in court.
The high court dismissed the prosecution and the trial court’s argument that Singh had come to court with his confession 13 years too late. “Singh was a defence witness and could have come to court only after the prosecution completed examination of all its witnesses. The case was committed from the MM court to sessions court before such a stage could be reached. In the sessions court, too, he had no opportunity to make an early appearance. Apparently, a wrong perception as created by the prosecution of Singh speaking up only after 13 years. This was highlighted by all and even the trial court got carried away by the idea of belated deposition,” justice Joshi said.
He also took a very strong stand against the prosecution for its failure to examine singer Kamal Khan despite his being in the country till 2007 and providing his updated and permanent addresses to the investigating agencies.
“The examination of an eyewitness, especially when the case has very limited number of eyewitnesses, is incremental. But the conduct of the investigating agencies leads to the conclusion that they were not desirous of bringing kamal Khan before the court. It is thus, necessary to draw an adverse inference against the prosecution for the same,” justice Joshi said.