ONE of India’s biggest and most popular Bollywood movie stars was sentenced to five years in jail yesterday on charges of running over five men sleeping on a pavement and killing one in a hit-and-run case that has dragged on for more than 12 years. Salman Khan, was convicted of culpable homicide by Judge DW Deshpande of the Mumbai Sessions court.
The 49-year-old actor was also given separate terms for negligent driving and causing grievous harm to the victims, but all the sentences will run concurrently, defence lawyers said.
Khan plans to file an appeal for bail, said his lawyer, Srikant Shivade. He was scheduled to start starting serving the sentence in a Mumbai prison yesterday, Mr Shivade said.
The lawyers argued for a more lenient sentence, citing Khan’s “medical condition”. No details were immediately available on the nature of Khan’s medical complaint.
Most Indian prisons are overcrowded and have poor sanitation and health care. However, a high-profile prisoner such as Khan was unlikely to be kept with hardened criminals and would probably be accommodated with white-collar offenders.
The prosecution told the court that Khan was drunk when he rammed his SUV into a group of homeless people, sleeping on a pavement in September 2002.
Khan has all along denied that he was behind the wheel. In April, his driver Ashok Singh told the court that he was driving and lost control of the SUV when one its tyres burst.
But Judge Deshpande dismissed the actor’s claim and accused him of driving the car under the influence of alcohol then fleeing.
Khan also faces trial in a separate case for allegedly killing two rare deer in a western India wildlife preserve 16 years ago.
He is one of Bollywood’s most popular stars, appearing in more than 90 Hindi-language films in his 27-year career. Huge crowds had gathered outside his house in south Mumbai for a glimpse of the star as he emerged from his apartment block.
Television crews and reporters followed the actor’s car and thronged the building as the court gave its verdict in a case that has been closely watched by millions of the actor’s fans in India and abroad. Television channels reported that Khan looked downcast during the court proceedings and wept when the judge pronounced the verdict.
His brothers, Arbaaz and Sohail, were present in a courtroom that was jam-packed with other relatives and his friends from the film industry.
Another popular Bollywood actor, Sanjay Dutt, is currently serving time for illegal possession of weapons linked to a 1993 terror attack in Mumbai. However, since he was sentenced in April 2013, Dutt has spent long periods at his Mumbai home on medical grounds.
Khan began his career in 1988, playing romantic action heroes in box office hits.