MUMBAI: The prosecution in the 2002 hit-and-run case, in which Bollywood actor Salman Khan was convicted, had "tutored" its witnesses, his lawyer today argued in the Bombay High Court.
Of these four witness, three had told the trial court that they had seen Salman getting down from the driver's side of the car after it ran over the people sleeping on pavement, said his lawyer Amit Desai, arguing before Justice A R Joshi. Salman's Toyota Land Cruiser had rammed into a shop in suburban Bandra on September 28, 2002, killing one person and injuring four. He has appealed against his conviction and the five-year sentence awarded by the trial court in May.
Desai focused on the testimonies of the witnesses Muslim Nimayat Shaikh, Mannu Khan, Mohammed Kalim Iqbal Pathan and Mohammed Abdullah Shaikh. He compared their statements given to a Magistrate during an earlier trial and those before the sessions court which re-tried the case after a more serious charge of culpable homicide was pressed.
"If they were (trapped) underneath the car, as alleged by the prosecution, then how could they see the actor getting down from the right side of the vehicle?" advocate Desai said. Muslim Shaikh told the trial court that he was under the car and heard shouts of people saying they had seen Salman Khan coming out but the prosecution didn't examine the people who actually saw Salman coming out, Desai said.
Shaikh himself was injured and how was it possible for an injured man writhing in pain to see who is getting down from the vehicle, Desai asked. Also, this witness didn't say whether Salman got down from the front seat or the rear side, all he said was he had seen the actor getting down from the right side. "This shows the witness was tutored," the lawyer argued.
Muslim Shaikh told the sessions court about seeing Salman emerging from the driver's side but he was mum on this aspect during the earlier trial, advocate Desai pointed out. Another prosecution witness, Manu Khan, told the court that he saw Salman falling down twice (after getting out of the car) at the spot and he was drunk. But how could the witness say with confidence that Salman was drunk when he himself (Manu Khan) was under the car and could not have smelt liquor on Salman, the actor's lawyer asked.
Salman could have fallen due to the shock (of the incident), the lawyer contended. Again, this witness hadn't said while deposing before the magistrate earlier that Salman was drunk, Desai said. Witness Mohammed Pathan said he saw Salman getting down from the driver's side but he was unable to state whether the vehicle was a right-wheel drive or a left-wheel drive, Desai said, questioning the worth of the testimony.
Mohammed Shaikh, the fourth witness, told the trial court that he had seen the actor on the spot, but didn't say who was on the right side of the car and who was on the left, Salman's lawyer said. The prosecution also failed to examine Salman's friends who were with him at a bar before the accident. To prove that the actor was drunk it examined the injured persons trapped under the car but did not examine those who were with the actor on that day, Desai said. Arguments would continue tomorrow.