Mumbai: Evidence suggests Salman Khan was driving his car when it rammed into a shop in Bandra in 2002 killing one person and injuring four others sleeping outside, the prosecution today told the Bombay High Court, hearing the actor's appeal against his conviction by a lower court for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
"Two witnesses had seen the Bollywood hero Salman Khan occupying the driver's seat of his car... This implies that he was driving the car," public prosecutor S S Shinde told Justice A R Joshi who is hearing Salman's appeal against the five-year sentence awarded to him by the sessions trial court on May 6.
Shinde referred to evidence of PW-6 (prosecution witness), a parking attendant at JW Marriott Hotel in suburban Juhu, which the actor had visited along with his friends just before the accident occurred on the night of September 28, 2002.
"This witness has said that he had seen Salman at the driver's seat of the car in the parking slot at JW Marriott Hotel," the public prosecutor said, adding that even Salman had admitted to this in the trial court.
The actor had said in the trial court that on the night of the incident he was waiting in the car, parked at the hotel, for his family driver Ashok Singh to come and take over from other driver who had fallen sick and wanted to leave. Salman had said that he occupied the driver's seat in the car for some time but got up after Singh arrived.
However, the public prosecutor said that the witness did not see Singh arriving at the hotel. So it is not known whether the driver had indeed arrived and if so then at what time.
Shinde also referred to evidence of another witness, who was injured in the mishap, saying that the latter had seen Salman getting down from the driver's seat of the car, thereby implying that the actor was behind the wheels of the car.
"Two witnesses have thus said in their evidence that they had seen the actor at the driver's seat of the car. This clearly establishes that he was driving the vehicle," Shinde told the court.
According to prosecution, Salman's Land Cruiser had ran over five persons, killing one of them, sleeping outside the American Express Bakery.
The trial court had earlier sentenced Salman to jail for five years, after which he filed an appeal in the high court.
Referring to Salman's claim that Singh, and not him, was behind the wheel at the time of the mishap, the public prosecutor said that even actor's childhood friend Francis Fernandes, who stayed close to the spot of the accident, had not talked about Singh driving the vehicle.
As Fernandes was Salman's friend of many years, he must be knowing Singh by face but not a word had been said about Singh in the evidence, argued Shinde.
The judge, however, observed that this witness had also not mentioned about Ravindra Patil, former police bodyguard of Salman who was accompanying the actor in his car at the time of the accident.
Salman had also pleaded with Fernandes, whom he used to call as 'commander', by saying 'save me, commander'. If he was not driving then why should have he sought help, Shinde asked.
Patil had stated in his statement before a magistrate that Salman was driving the car under the influence of liquor and that he had warned him to drive slowly or else he would meet with an accident. However, in the FIR filed by Patil earlier, he did not speak a word about who was driving the car.
The arguments of the prosecution, which dwelt upon who was driving the car, would continue tomorrow.
The prosecution's case is that the actor was driving the car at a reckless speed of 90 to 100 km per hour and that he had downed drinks before taking control of the steering. Salman's lawyer Amit Desai had argued earlier that the actor was not driving the car and his family driver Singh was at the wheel when the mishap occurred.
Desai also refuted allegations that Salman had taken drinks at the Rain Bar which he visited before the mishap and argued that the accident occurred due to a tyre burst.
The actor is currently on bail, granted by the HC until the appeal is finally heard and disposed of.