Mumbai: Continuing to attack the prosecution in the 2002 hit-and-run case, the lawyer of Bollywood actor Salman Khan today argued in the Bombay High Court that it had relied on evidence of key eyewitness Ravindra Patil at the fag end of the trial.
Defence lawyer Amit Desai questioned the move of the prosecution to inform the trial court at the fag end of the trial that Ravindra Patil, the then police bodyguard of Salman, died but they wanted to rely upon his evidence.
"This they (prosecution) should have done when the trial commenced as Patil was a key witness and his statement had a great significance," said the lawyer while arguing the appeal filed by
Salman against his conviction in this case.
"Patil is the first informant as an eye-witness but he is the last witness to be examined...This goes contrary to what the Supreme Court has opined," the lawyer said.
The Supreme Court says that unfolding the narrative of the prosecution case must be through the first witness or first set of witnesses, Desai submitted.
"On September 28, 2002, when the mishap occurred, based on his (Patil's) statement, the FIR was lodged, in which he does not speak about Salman consuming alcohol, while on October 1, when his supplementary statement was recorded, he talks about Salman taking drinks," the lawyer argued.
Justice A R Joshi is hearing the appeal filed by Salman against the order of the trial court convicting him on May 6 for ramming his car into a shop, killing one person and injuring four who were sleeping on pavement.
"In order to ensure that there is a fair trial, the prosecutor (Pradeep Gharat) should have informed the court in the beginning of the trial that key witness Ravindra Patil had passed away and the prosecution wishes to include his evidence," Desai said.
The prosecutor is an officer of the court and he should work in the interest of justice and not just to seek a conviction order. "The credibility of witness has been impeached," argued Desai.
If Patil's evidence was taken on record in the beginning of the trial, then other witnesses would have been cross-examined on the basis of what he had said in his statement before a magistrate.
By not doing so, prejudice had been caused to the defence, Desai submitted.
Patil died of TB in October 3, 2007. However, prior to that his statement has been recorded before a magistrate's court in Bandra. Sessions Judge D W Deshpande, who conducted the trial, allowed his evidence to be included.
Patil had accompanied Salman in his car on the day of the mishap from the actor's residence at Galaxy Apartments in Bandra to 'Rain Bar' in Juhu and from there to J W Marriot Hotel and then to the mishap spot on September 28, 2002.
"The prosecution relied upon his evidence....He was not available to the defence lawyers for cross examination as he had passed away in 2007," Desai said.
Instead, they (prosecution) could have examined Kamaal Khan, Salman's singer-friend who was also accompanying the actor in his car on the incident day. He, too, like Ravindra Patil, was an eye witness. However, the prosecution chose to ignore the examination of Kamaal Khan in the trial court, the lawyer said.
The defence had also claimed that it was Ashok Singh, driver of Salman, who was at the wheel on the day. However, the prosecution disputed this theory. "This is not fair and goes against the criminal jurisprudence," he argued.
According to Desai, some witnesses could have been cross-examined by defence on the basis of what Ravindra Patil had told a magistrate that Salman was under the influence of liquor and that he was driving the car at the time of the incident.
The witnesses, who could be cross-examined were, PW-2 (Muslim Niyamat Shaikh), PW-3 (Mannu Khan), PW-4 Mohammed Kalim Iqbal Pathan, PW-11 (Mohammed Abdulla Shaikh) - the four who were injured in the accident, PW-6 (Balu Laxman Muthe), the bodyguard of Sohail Khan, PW-7 (Fransis Daiman Fernandes), PW-8 (Ramasare Ramdev Pande), PW-10 (Sachin Gangaram Kadam) PW-13 ( Amin Kasam Shaikh) - who all stayed or worked near the accident spot and PW-13 (Kalpesh Sarju Verma), the parking assistant at JW Marriott Hotel, the lawyer pointed out.
These witnesses could have thrown light on Patil --from which side of the car he got down, what was he doing at the accident spot and other aspects of the case since he was a key eye witness, said Desai.
The hearing would continue tomorrow.