Court bails Bollywood actor convicted of hit-and-run

Fans hold posters of Bollywood actor Salman Khan as they celebrate in Ahmadabad. Picture: AP

Fans hold posters of Bollywood actor Salman Khan as they celebrate in Ahmadabad. Picture: AP

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A COURT has granted bail to one of India’s biggest movie stars until it hears his appeal challenging his conviction in a drink-driving hit-and-run case more than a decade ago.

Salman Khan was sentenced to five years in prison on Wednesday on charges of driving over five men sleeping on the pavement and killing one of them in Mumbai in 2002.

Justice Abhay Thipsay said the Mumbai High Court would start hearing Khan’s appeal in July, according to prosecutor Abha Singh. He asked Khan to pay a bail bond of 30,000 rupees (£325).

Khan, 49, is one of Bollywood’s most popular stars, appearing in more than 90 Hindi-language films in his 27-year career. A large crowd of Khan’s supporters danced with joy outside his house in Mumbai, India’s financial and entertainment ­capital.

However, one of his fans tried to take his own life by consuming poison just before the start of the court proceedings on Friday. Police rushed him to a hospital in an unconscious state.

The fan, an aspiring script writer named Gourango Kundu, had said he was hoping Khan would give him a break in Bollywood movies. If the actor was sent to the prison, he would not be able to help him.

In convicting Khan on Wednesday, the trial court accepted the prosecution’s plea that Khan was drunk when he rammed his SUV into a group of homeless people and found him guilty of culpable homicide.

Khan began his career in 1988 playing a romantic action hero, with many of his movies becoming box office hits. In recent years he turned to philanthropy, establishing a charitable trust called Being Human which works in education and health care for the poor.

Bollywood film-makers were worried about the court case because Khan has several films in the pipeline. Film industry analysts said Khan had projects worth 2.5 billion rupees depending on him.

It could take years more for Khan’s case to wind its way through India’s overburdened legal system. The system is plagued by a shortfall of judges, corruption, police delays and excruciating layers of paperwork.

Even if the Mumbai High Court upholds his conviction, the actor could go to India’s top court, the Supreme Court, seeking reversal of his sentence.

Fans have spoken in support of Khan. Outside his home yesterday, supporters celebrated by distributing sweets, setting off firecrackers, dancing and singing. Many also gathered outside the court.

Many Indians have taken to social media to express their unhappiness.

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