A Mumbai sessions judge found Bollywood superstar Salman Khan guilty Wednesday of killing a homeless man in a 2002 hit-and-run after a night out drinking.
Judge D W Deshpande convicted the 49-year-old of culpable homicide for crashing his SUV into a group of homeless men in Bandra, Mumbai and then fleeing the scene. Khan, who blamed his driver for the crash, faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and was expected to be taken into custody from the court.
Khan was convicted in all eight charges, including the most serious charge of 'culpable homicide not amounting to murder' which could see him behind bars for up to 10 years.
Judge D W Deshpande told Khan he was driving the SUV on that fateful night in Bandra when his car ran over people sleeping on the pavement, killing one and injuring four others. He also said Khan was drunk and had no licence to drive. The actor looked dejected and there were also tears in his eyes as the judge read out the verdict.
Lawyers now are arguing before court on the quantum of punishment and the sentencing could also be later today.
The trial in the case has seen many twists and turns, and today's decision is a bad hit to the Rs 200-crore riding on his films at the moment.
A tight security blanket was thrown around the court where sessions judge D W Deshpande pronounced the judgement. Only lawyers, media personnel and court staff were allowed to be present. Last month, Judge Deshpande had asked Khan to be present in court today to hear the verdict.
The 'Kick' actor was first tried under the lesser charge of 'rash and negligent driving' -- that carried a punishment of two years -- but a Bandra metropolitan magistrate in 2012 slapped the more serious offence of 'culpable homicide not amounting to murder' and transferred the matter to the sessions court. This fresh charge carried a punishment of up to 10 years.
The actor had claimed he was not at the wheel at the time of the accident which killed one person and left four others injured on the night of September 28, 2002. While the prosecution had insisted a drunk Khan was driving the Toyota Land Cruiser that ran over the victims sleeping on the pavement outside a bakery in suburban Bandra, the actor claimed it was his driver Ashok Singh who was behind the wheel. Driver Singh has endorsed the defence's claim.
The defence also argued that police had not obtained finger prints from the steering wheel to find out who was driving the vehicle. Prosecutor Pradeep Gharat had alleged that Khan was driving the vehicle after consuming Bacardi rum at a bar, a charge denied by the actor, who said he had just a glass of water.
Nurullah Mehboob Sharif was killed in the accident while Kalim Mohammed Pathan, Munna Malai Khan, Abdullah Rauf Shaikh and Muslim Shaikh were injured.
The defence also disputed the prosecution's contention that there were three persons in the vehicle--Khan, his police bodyguard Ravindra Patil and singer friend Kamal Khan, insisting that driver Ashok Singh was also present.