Salman hit-and-run case: Witness offered 5 lakh bribe

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: Trouble seems to be pouring on Salman Khan with accusations from all sides. After the witnesses claimed that they had received death threats, fresh allegations have been made that they had been asked to take a bribe to back away from the superstar`s ill famed case.

One of the key witnesses in the 2002 hit-and-run case involving the superstar has allegedly received "threat" calls asking him to accept Rs five lakh for "staying away" from the case, police said today.

The witness, Muslim Shaikh, received two phone calls on Sunday night from an unidentified person who asked him to accept Rs five lakh and keep away from the case, a police officer told PTI.

After the incident was brought forward, the court asked the police to conduct an inquiry and submit a report before it on May 19.

"The unidentified caller told the witness that `paanch lakh le lo aur bhag jao` (take Rs five lakh and run away)," said a police officer.

Shaikh was called up again and again even though he repeatedly disconnected the call, the officer added.

"Preliminary inquiry suggested the unidentified caller could (be) a lawyer," police sources said without divulging specific details.

Earlier on Tuesday, the key witnesses, who had been the injured during the fateful night of September 28, 2002, identified Salman as getting down from the car after the incident in which two were killed.

During cross-examination, Salman's lawyer Srikant Shivade alleged that the witnesses were tutored by police to say they had seen Salman getting down from the car.

However, the witnesses dismissed Shivade's argument.

They also described as "false" the allegations levelled by the defence lawyer that they had implicated Salman only because police told them they would get a huge compensation if they named him.

One of the witnesses Muslim Shaikh was confronted with his earlier statement of 2006 made before a magistrate wherein he had not stated a word about Salman getting down from the car.

To this, Shaikh replied he had told the magistrate about Salman coming out of the car, but could not say why that part was not recorded in his statement recorded by the court.

Shaikh said he had told the magistrate that Salman had alighted from the car and was held by people until his police bodyguard (Ravindra Patil) intervened and requested them to release him. However, Shaikh was not able to explain why this does not find a mention in his statement given to magistrate earlier.

To a question by Salman's lawyer, the witness said, "It is not correct to say that I had not seen anyone getting down from the car".

The lawyer told the court that this question was put to the witness because he had not told the magistrate earlier about Salman getting down from the car and is saying this for the first time today in trial court.

Shaikh denied allegations that he was not aware about Salman's presence at the site of accident and was told later by police that the actor was driving the car.

Another witness, Mohammed Kalim Iqbal Pathan, said he saw Salman getting down from the right side of the car and identified him in the court.

In the cross-examination, the witness said he had not read about the mishap in newspapers but heard people saying that the actor was involved.

The third witness Manu Khan also identified Salman as the person who had alighted from the car.

Khan said he was aware that some cars have steering wheel on the left side and others on the right, but could not remember the side where the steering wheel of the car involved in the mishap was located.

The witness said he could not remember from which side Salman got down from the vehicle.

Lawyers, law students and members of general public had gathered in large numbers in the court to have a glimpse of the film star.

According to the prosecution, the actor had run over his Toyota Land Cruiser on a group of persons sleeping on a footpath outside a bakery in suburban Bandra, killing one and injuring four others, on September 28, 2002.

On December 5 last year, the court had ordered a fresh trial on the ground that the witnesses had not been examined in the context of aggravated charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, which was invoked against the actor midway through the case.

The charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder attracts a 10-year sentence. The actor had earlier been tried by a magistrate for a lesser offence of causing death by negligence, which entailed an imprisonment of two years.

The case, dragging on for over a decade, had taken a twist earlier this year when the magistrate, after examining 17 witnesses, held that the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder was made out against Salman and referred the matter to a sessions court, as cases under this offence are tried by a higher court.

(With Agency Inputs)