MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court today began dictation of the verdict in the 2002 hit-and-run case involving Bollywood hero Salman Khan and observed that the FIR was silent on the issue of "drunkenness" of the actor, which cannot be considered as "minor."
"The FIR is silent on the issue of the drunkenness of the appellant...This ommission of witness cannot be considered as minor," observed Justice A R Joshi in the open court during the dictation of the judgement.
"The issue of drunkeness of Salman Khan has to be critically examined as the evidence of those injured in the accident is not devoid of minor discrepancies," Justice Joshi said.
The court is expected to conclude the verdict this week in the appeal filed by Khan against five-year imprisonment awarded to him by a Mumbai sessions court on May 6 this year.
The Judge said that the prosecution witness PW-3 i.e Mannu Khan had testified that it appeared to him that Salman was drunk because he fell down twice after getting down from the car at the accident spot, then got up and left the place.
Justice Joshi observed that "it appears that the first informant (Ravindra Patil) has lost sight of this when he filed the FIR as it does not mention the word 'alcohol'.
Moreover, PW-3 i.e Mannu Khan, has been examined 12 years after the incident. He (PW-3) has to be viewed in juxtaposition with the FIR, the Judge said.
Salman challenged the sessions court verdict which had sentenced the actor to five years imprisonment on IPC charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, saying the trial court had erred in trying him for this offence.
The Judge said he will give a ruling on applicability of culpable homicide charge against Salman and also on other key questions like the admissibility of a statement made by the actor's former bodyguard (before a magistrate) Ravindra Patil as evidence under section 33 of Indian Evidence Act.
Salman contended that the charge of culpable homicide was not justified and wrongly invoked in the case. He also challenged the prosecution's step of relying upon Patil's statement in the trial court, saying this witness died and hence was not available for cross-examination.
The prosecution opposed Salman's plea and justified invocation of culpable homicide charge against the actor, saying he had driven the car recklessly under the influence of liquor on September 28, 2002, when he met with a mishap in which one person was killed and 4 others were injured.
During the course of the judgement, the Judge said he would also scrutinise other important issues including whether the deceased had been killed due to the impact of the car mishap or whether the car dropped off the hook of a crane, called to remove it, and fell accidentally on the victim. The HC would also give a ruling on the "drunken" state of Salman Khan on the day of the incident.
While the prosecution has argued that the actor had taken alcoholic drinks at Rain Bar and Restaurant at Vile Parle before meeting with the mishap in suburban Bandra, Salman has denied the charge saying evidence does not suggest this.
The Judge said that in the verdict he will also dwell on issues such as why Kamaal Khan, singer-friend of Salman, who was with the actor in his car on the incident day, was not examined.
The HC had recently rejected Salman's plea on issuing a directive to examine Kamaal Khan as witness.
The Judge also said the other issue he would touch on in his verdict would be on the improvement made by late Ravindra Patil in his statement before a magistrate.
Initially, in the FIR filed by him, Patil had not said anything incriminating about Salman. However, later, in a Magistrate's court, he gave a statement saying the actor was drunk and was driving recklessly and in great speed.
The Judge also said that the issue of not taking blood sample at Bhabha hospital, where Salman was first taken by police for pathologic test, would also be examined by him.
The Judge today dwelt upon the prosecution's claim and defence's version on four injured persons -- Muslim Niyamat Shaikh, Mannu Khan, Mohammed Salim Iqbal Pathan and Mohammed Adullah Shaikh.
Justice Joshi also touched upon the depostition of Salman's friend Francis Fernandes who had asked the actor to leave the place of mishap. The prosecution alleged that Salman had run away from the spot.
Besides, the court referred to the testimony of Kalpesh Varma, parking attendant at J W Marriot Hotel where Salman had gone before he met with the mishap.
The Judge also mentioned the version of eye witness Ram Asare Pande who was at the accident spot. Pande had said in his evidence that he had seen four persons -- the actor, his police bodyguard and two other persons.
Salman has argued that there were four persons in the car including his family driver Ashok Singh who was driving the car while prosecution claimed that there were only three persons --Salman, his singer friend Kamaal Khan and Patil.