Bollywood actor Salman Khan will face retrial in the 2002 hit-and-run case after a sessions court today dismissed his petition challenging a Metropolitan court order invoking the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
The superstar had earlier been tried for a lesser offence of causing death by negligence (Section 304 A of IPC), which provides for a maximum punishment of two years in jail.
Pronouncing the verdict in an open court, sessions judge U B Hejib ruled that the offence of culpable homicide not amounting to murder was made out against the actor.
If found guilty, Salman could face imprisonment upto ten years for the offence, which is triable by a sessions court.
The judge fixed July 19 for commencement of retrial.
In a twist to the case, a Bandra Metropolitan Magistrate, after examining 17 witnesses, had brought forth the more serious charge of culpable homicide against the 47-year-old actor and transferred it to a sessions court for retrial.
Salman had appealed against the Metropolitan court's order.
Advancing his argument against invoking the grave charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder (section 304 part II IPC), his counsel Ashok Mundargi pleaded that the Magistrate's order was "erroneous, bad in law and contrary to evidence on record."
The Magistrate, he contended, had failed to appreciate that the actor had neither the intention to kill people, nor the knowledge that his rash and negligent driving would kill a person and cause injury to four others.
Public Prosecutor Shankar Erande while opposing Salman's appeal said the Magistrate had rightly invoked the charge of culpable homicide as he had committed a serious offence.
Erande argued that a prosecution witness Ravindra Patil (now deceased), a police bodyguard deployed for the actor's security and accompanying him at the time of the accident, had warned him not to drive rashly as it could lead to a mishap.
Yet, Khan did not pay heed and drove at a great speed, the prosecutor contended.
The prosecutor submitted that Khan was drunk and his blood sample revealed 60 mg alcohol which was beyond the permissible limit. He said Salman had the knowledge that his act of rash driving, more particularly after taking drinks, might result in death of people in accident.
Moreover, the actor is familiar with the topography of the area as he stays close to the scene of the accident.
As such, he was fully aware that people sleep on the footpaths in that locality, the prosecutor said.
One person was killed and four others were injured when the Land Cruiser allegedly driven by Khan ran into a group of people sleeping on the pavement outside a bakery in suburban Bandra in the wee hours on September 28, 2002.