In a fresh development in the 2002 hit-and-run case involving Bollywood actor Salman Khan, a lawyer on Friday demanded that the court should summon the singer Kamaal Khan as a witness to shed light on who was driving the car at the time of the 2002 mishap.
Kamaal Khan, Salman's friend, was riding in the latter's Toyota Land Cruiser when it rammed into a bakery in suburban Bandra on September 28, 2002, killing one person and injuring four others who were sleeping outside.
Advocate Abha Singh, who represents Santosh Daundkar, an activist who has filed an application seeking action against the police for alleged perjury (presenting false evidence), made the demand in her 25-page written argument.
Advocate Singh argued that Kamaal was a "star" witness, and had given a statement to the police on October 4, 2002, that Salman was driving the car while his bodyguard, police constable Ravindra Patil, was on his left, while Kamal himself was in the backseat.
As Patil died during the trial, the only eye-witness left was Kamaal Khan and he should have been called to testify as to who was driving the car, she said.
Salman's case is that it was his family driver Ashok Singh who was driving the SUV.
Advocate Singh also cited a Supreme Court judgment which says that 'a star witness' cannot be dropped. "A judge can call a witness at any stage of the trial if he is crucial," she submitted.
"You (prosecution) are deliberately not calling the star witness....that he is in England cannot be the reason. Under section 275 of Criminal Procedure Code, a witness can be asked to depose via audio or video conference," Singh added.
Salman had, in his statement before the court last month, said his driver Ashok Singh was behind the wheel.
The next day, Singh himself appeared -- for the first time since the trial began -- as a defence witness and told the court that he was driving the car and not the actor. Advocate Abha Singh also submitted a copy of Kamaal Khan's statement to the police.
The court should use its powers and summon Kamaal as a witness, she said.
Sessions judge DW Deshpande had yesterday said he would pass order on Daundkar's plea on May 6, before passing the verdict. Final arguments in the case are over.
Daundkar's perjury application also alleges that a wrong set of doctors was brought to the court as witnesses by the police who said they had conducted the post-mortem. This delayed the trial for three years in the magistrate's court, it said.
"Also, by not examining Kamaal Khan, police tried to cover (hide) an important piece of evidence which might have thrown light on who was driving the car," said advocate Singh.
Kamaal Khan initially had "hostile" attitude to the prosecution and did not appear to give evidence. A non-bailable warrant was issued by a magistrate and he was arrested and released on a personal bond after he gave an undertaking that he would appear before the court whenever required, she said.
But the prosecution dropped his name from the list of witnesses without giving any reason, advocate Singh said.
The court had earlier not entertained the perjury plea. Daundkar then moved the HC which directed the sessions court to hear it and decide.
The trial was earlier conducted by a magistrate after the 49-year-old actor was charged with rash and negligent driving, an offence which attracts punishment up to two years under IPC.
However, later the magistrate added the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder which provides for ten years' jail term. The case was then referred to the sessions court because this aggravated charge cannot be tried before the magistrate.