Superstar Salman Khan has been sensationally acquitted in the 2002 hit-and-run case.
The Bombay High Court ruled on Thursday that Khan, 49, was free to go. The ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’ actor had been previously sentenced to five years in jail by a lower court for the incident.
“On basis of evidences produced by the prosecution, the appellant cannot be convicted, no matter how differently the common man thinks,” the Bombay High Court said in its ruling.
In the first part of its ruling on Wednesday, the court said that the prosecution had failed to establish beyond reasonable doubt that the actor was driving and was drunk at the time of the accident.
The court questioned the credibility of the key prosecution witness – Khan’s bodyguard Ravindra Patil – who had claimed in court that the actor was under the influence of alcohol when he was driving on the night of September 2002 when Khan’s Land Cruiser mounted the pavement and ploughed into a group of homeless people near his home in Mumbai.
One person was killed and four others injured in the incident.
No one but Ravindra Patil – who died in 2007 – had said the actor was driving, the court said.
“If the witness is partly reliable, then corroboration is required. Ravindra Patil cannot be considered as a wholly reliable witness,” the court said, ruling that the lower court had made a mistake by relying on Patil’s statement.
The court also suggested that some crucial pieces of evidence had been “fabricated”.
Salman Khan had always argued that his driver was behind the wheel at the time of the crash.
His acquittal will be a relief for an industry which stood to lose out on tens of millions of pounds worth of income had the actor been sent to jail.
The prosecution is likely to make a final appeal against the verdict in the Supreme Court.