A Mumbai court has ruled that Indian movie star Salman Khan will be tried for homicide for his alleged involvement in a fatal road accident more than 10 years ago. If convicted he faces up to 10 years in jail.
The actor was earlier being tried for the lesser offence of causing death by negligence, which carries a maximum punishment of two years in jail.
Monday’s court decision is a blow for one of Bollywood’s biggest stars. Khan has starred in about 90 Hindi-language films in his 25-year career.
One man was killed and another three were injured when Khan allegedly rammed his car into a group of homeless people sleeping on a Mumbai sidewalk in September 2002. The trial will begin July 19.
In his verdict, Sessions Judge U.B. Hejib said that the offence of “culpable homicide not amounting to murder” had been made out against the actor in the accident case.
Earlier, Khan had been tried by a Mumbai metropolitan magistrate under the less serious charge under Section 304(A) (causing death by negligence) of IPC, which carries a two-year jail sentence.
The magistrate later invoked Section 304 (II) of IPC after examining 17 witnesses and transferred the case for re-trial by the session court.
Strongly opposing it, Khan’s lawyer Ashok Mundargi had argued that the magistrate’s order was “erroneous, bad in law and contrary to evidence on record”.
He contended that the magistrate had failed to appreciate that the actor had neither the intention to kill people, nor knowledge that his rash and negligent driving could kill one person and injure four more.
Countering the arguments, public prosecutor S. Erande pointed out that a prosecution witness, the late Ravindra Patil, who was a police personal bodyguard for Khan, had repeatedly warned the actor not to drive rashly as it could lead to an accident.
But Khan did not heed and drove at high speed, leading to accident, said Erande, while opposing the actor’s appeal.
The magistrate had rightly invoked the charge of culpable homicide as the actor had committed a serious offence, he added.
Erande further stated that Khan’s blood samples revealed that he was inebriated, with 60 mg alcohol, which is beyond permissible limits for driving.