The Bombay High Court Thursday acquitted Bollywood star Salman Khan of all charges in the 2002 hit-and-run case in which he was convicted and sentenced to five years imprisonment by a sessions court.
While acquitting the 49-year-old actor in a jam-packed courtroom, Justice A R Joshi said, “The appeal is allowed. The trial court’s verdict is quashed and set aside. Salman is acquitted of all charges.”
On hearing the verdict, Salman broke down.
Justice Joshi, who started dictating the verdict on Monday, said the prosecution failed to establish its case against the appellant accused (Salman) on all charges.
On September 28, 2002, Salman’s car had rammed into a bakery shop in suburban Bandra. One person was killed and four others were injured in the mishap.
The judge said the burden is on the prosecution to establish the guilt of the accused and this needs to be done beyond reasonable doubt.
There are various shortcomings by the prosecution such as not recording evidence of necessary and important witnesses and omissions and contradictions in the evidence of injured witnesses, which definitely create a doubt about the involvement of Salman for offences for which he has been charged, the court said.
On the basis of such evidence, Salman cannot be convicted, it said.
The judge further said that the investigation was conducted in a faulty manner with many loose ends and as such benefit of this had to be given in favour of the accused.
It is the duty of the court to analyse the evidence submitted to it and to see that the offence is proved beyond reasonable doubt, Justice Joshi said.
He said he is of the considered view that the appreciation of evidence done by the trial court while convicting the appellant was not proper and legal, as per the principles of criminal jurisprudence.
Consequently, it must be said that this is not a case where the prosecution has successfully established its charges, he observed, adding that the entire evidence of the prosecution was circumstantial in nature.
On the main aspects as to driving and drunkenness, the prosecution has not brought any material evidence which spells out the offence of the accused, the court said.
Salman heaved a huge sigh of relief and broke down after hearing the verdict.
He lowered his head, sighed, and looked up again at the judge from the witness box.
As Justice Joshi left the court, Salman came out of the witness box and mingled with his family and lawyers. He then reclined against the wall and started humming a song.
Overcome with emotions, he broke down, following which Shera, the actor’s bodyguard for many years, walked up to Salman and asked him to turn his face to the wall so people do not see him cry.
His sister Alvira, who could not stop smiling, flashed a thumbs-up sign at the reporters.
Bollywood hailed the verdict.
“I am happy for him. It’s been 13 years since the case is going on… the family was on tenterhooks. He is a good person… he deserves justice. I do feel bad for the people who lost their lives …got injured. I do feel bad for the tragedy,” veteran actor Anupam Kher said.
Filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar said the verdict comes as a relief for Salman and his family.
Actress-politician Hema Malini said: “We all feel good about him and this is a great news for all of us. He should now settle down and get married,” she said.
Actress Madhuri Dixit said, “Anything good happens in anyone’s life, I am happy about it.”