Salman Khan gets five years in jail for 2002 hit-and-run: Bollywood megastar has just 48 hours on bail to secure his freedom

  • Mumbai Sessions Court has sentenced actor Salman Khan to five years in jail for hit-and-run incident that killed a homeless man and injured others
  • Star was granted a two-day interim bail
  • His lawyers are battling to convince judges the actor should get full bail
  • Salman will be back in court on May 8 to make his case for freedom  

Salman Khan with his mother Salma and father Salim before leaving for the Mumbai sessions court

Salman Khan with his mother Salma and father Salim before leaving for the Mumbai sessions court

It's turning out to be an edge-of-the-seat thriller for actor Salman Khan, his family, and the filmmakers who have invested nearly Rs 200 crore in his unfinished films. 

After he was sentenced and secured interim bail in the 2002 hit-and-run case, the actor needs to recover quickly from his shock and shore up his defence for regular bail. 

Time’s running out; he has less than 48 hours to convince the high court of the merits of his case. 

On Wednesday afternoon, a sessions court sentenced the Bollywood superstar to five years in jail for killing one person and injuring four under the wheels of his Land Cruiser. 

The actor had spent 17 days in jail in 2002 after being arrested in the case. 

Within hours of the sessions court order, his defence team roped in well-known lawyer Harish Salve and got him interim bail from the Bombay High Court till May 8. 

The Bombay HC closes for vacation on May 8. And if the judge rejects his bail plea that day, Salman has the option to knock the door of the Supreme Court, which closes for vacation only on May 18. 

Salman’s legal team and Salve are currently in a huddle to prepare a foolproof case, and their first priority is to secure regular bail for the beefy actor. 

When his comment was sought, Salve told Mail Today: “Sorry, I cannot say anything. I am appearing in the matter and cannot reveal anything at this point.” 

'An act of god' 

According to sources, the actor’s lawyers will try to drive home the point that the hit-and-run was an “act of god” and that he had no intention to kill. They are also set to highlight his works of charity and certain health issues to win over the court’s sympathy. 

The legal team will produce a physician’s certificate, saying the 49-year-old actor has a neurological problem that could be aggravated if proper care is not taken. 

“He had started Salman Khan Foundation and an NGO, ‘Being Human’, to serve the society. He has done a lot of community service. We will submit to the court the balance sheet of these organisations to show his charitable side,” the sources added. 

The defence is also likely to argue that Salman’s case stands on a better footing than Alistair Pereira’s or Sanjeev Nanda’s in which more than five persons lost their lives. 

The lawyers will also mention that Salman had deposited Rs 19 lakh as compensation for the victims in 2002 itself. 

Meanwhile, Bollywood spent most of Wednesday speculating over its fate. Of the two films Salman is currently working on, Bajrangi Bhaijaan is co-produced by the superstar along with the film’s director Kabir Khan and Rockline Entertainment. 

The second is Sooraj Barjatya’s Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, produced by the filmmaker’s home banner Rajshri Productions. 

Fans mob Salman Khan’s car as he returns home after getting two-day interim bail from the Bombay High Court

Fans mob Salman Khan’s car as he returns home after getting two-day interim bail from the Bombay High Court

While fans were conjecturing if Salman would shoot for the films over the next 48 hours, sources close to him indicated he would want to spend the time at home with his family and legal battery. 

The trade took a practical stand. 

“Salman is not Bajrangbali Hanuman and cannot really do anything in just two days,” said trade expert Amod Mehra. 

“I am pretty sure he won’t think of work at this moment. He will rather work on his bail. I don’t foresee Salman not getting bail, on many counts. But if he doesn’t, he can ask the court for a grace period of 10-15 days to finish the films,” Mehra added. 

Though legal experts indicate that the law is not bound to consider how Salman’s punishment will affect the trade, Mehra makes a point for it. 

“The films may not be drastically affected but justice for people who have invested in him should be taken into consideration. They don’t deserve to bear the consequences. In future they may have second thoughts before signing Salman, but that is far too away to think about,” he said. 

Most in the film trade argue that a grace period should be given if Salman has to go to jail after 48 hours. 

“If Sanjay Dutt got a one-and-a-half-month grace period to complete his projects, the court should consider the same in case of Salman to safeguard Rajshri and Eros (distributors of Bajrangi Bhaijaan),” film exhibitor and distributor Akshay Rathi said. 

Pre-emption Industry insiders point out that Salman has perhaps preempted such a situation and cut down on film assignments. 

“Salman was actually going slow on signing films. The two films he is working on will sail through with no loss to the industry,” said Atul Mohan, Editor, Business Cinema.

With Ganesh N. and Kunal V. Shinde in Mumbai

 

'Swift bail is shocking' 

By Harish V. Nair in New Delhi 

As superstar Salman Khan returned to his Mumbai home within hours of the trial court sentencing him to five years’ imprisonment in the 2002 hit-and-run case, the swift relief granted to him by the Bombay High Court has raised eyebrows. 

Ordinary members of the public, especially the poor, languish in jail for several months or years together before their bail or appeal comes up for hearing in the “regular course”. 

After bail was given to Salman, jokes like “jail at 2 and bail at 4. And you still say that our judicial system moves at a snail’s pace?” became viral on the social media. 

Back at the start: Salman Khan is escorted out of a Mumbai court in October 2003

Back at the start: Salman Khan is escorted out of a Mumbai court in October 2003

The development has once again brought back to the centre stage the issue of famous, rich, influential and politicians getting urgent hearing of their pleas and getting quick relief, a fact admitted by several apex court judges recently. 

Says Justice S.N. Dhingra, former judge of the Delhi High Court: “It is a very well-known fact that hearing pattern in most courts change when petitions of the rich and powerful come up. Senior advocates who appear for them get special attention. Interim bail to Salman Khan on the same day of conviction was shocking to say the least. Heavens would not have fallen if he had spent at least two days in prison before his bail plea was heard.” 

Another former Delhi High Court judge R.S. Sodhi says: “There is no denying that such a high percentage of under-trials in a jail is a poor reflection of the state of affairs of the criminal justice administration. It is a fact that the common man goes into the general queue as far as hearings for bail and appeal are concerned while the rich and influential somehow manage priority hearings.”

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