Salman Khan jailed 5 years for hit-and-run case
BOLLYWOOD superstar Salman Khan was sentenced to five years in prison yesterday, for killing a homeless man with his sport utility vehicle in a 2002 hit-and-run accident after a night out drinking at an upmarket bar.
Judge D. W. Deshpande found Khan guilty of culpable homicide and other charges for driving his Land Cruiser into a group of homeless men sleeping in suburban Mumbai, rejecting the actor's claim that his driver was to blame.
"After going through the arguments put forth by both sides, I have come to the conclusion that five years is proper punishment," Judge Deshpande told the packed sessions court.
Khan has always denied being behind the wheel, and the conviction and sentence are likely to hit the career of one of the Indian movie industry's biggest box-office stars.
The 49-year-old looked stunned and tired as the sentence was read out, sinking into his chair as his family gathered around him.
Khan, the star of blockbusters such as Fearless, fled the scene of the crash that left one man dead and several others injured.
The verdict had been keenly awaited by both his legions of fans and Bollywood studios, which stand to lose millions of dollars if they have to cancel filming for movies which he has signed up for.
The trial began last year, after a series of court hearings and lengthy legal hold-ups. Several prosecution witnesses, including survivors of the crash, testified that Khan was driving the vehicle when it ploughed into the men sleeping on the street near a bakery in September 2002.
When Khan finally took the stand in March, he told the court that his driver was responsible for mounting the pavement in the upmarket suburb of Bandra West.
The driver testified in court last month that he had been behind the wheel, and that the crash occurred after the front left tyre burst, making steering and braking difficult.
But the judge found Khan guilty of all charges, including driving while under the influence of alcohol and without a licence.
Khan is expected to go to the High Court to apply for bail.
Defence lawyer Shrikant Shivade had argued against prison for Khan, saying that the actor had given generously to charity and was suffering from a neurological condition.
But prosecutor Pradeep Gharat said that "fines are not enough", adding that "the punishment has to be a deterrent" to others.
A policeman attached to Khan's security detail said in his statement to the police that the drunk actor lost control of the car while driving at about 90kmh.
One of the labourers injured in the accident said in his statement that "Salman was so drunk he fell".
Khan's lawyers said the star had, in fact, been drinking water all evening and climbed out of the driver's seat after the accident because the passenger side door had been damaged.
They also said that the victim, Nurulah Mahbob Sharif, was killed during an operation to move the car rather than by the crash itself.