Driver came up to save Salman 13 yrs after mishap: prosecution

The prosecution in the 2002 hit-and-run case involving Salman Khan today refuted in the Bombay High Court the Bollywood actor's defence that his driver Ashok Singh was driving the car and pointed out that this claim was made only towards the end of the trial.

Prosecutor Sandeep Shinde also told the court that the singer Kamaal Khan, who was riding in Salman's car at the time, was not examined by the prosecution during the trial because he had become untraceable.

The prosecution would file a reply to the actor's application that Kamaal Khan be examined in a day or two, Shinde told Justice A R Joshi who is hearing Salman's appeal against his conviction and five-year sentence.

"Kamaal is a British national. He has appeared before a magistrate who conducted the trial earlier and sought permission to go abroad, which was granted....And he vanished.

When the trial was transferred to the sessions court, we could not locate his whereabouts," said the prosecutor.

Salman's application says that Kamaal Khan was "the best eye witness" available to the prosecution who can throw the light on who was driving the car and how the mishap occurred.

"Ashok Singh (the actor's family driver) appeared before the sessions court for the first time at the fag end of trial, 13 years after the mishap, with a view to saving his master Salman," said Shinde, starting his arguments today.

The sessions court in May this year convicted Salman for ramming his car into a Bandra shop, killing one person and injuring four others, on September 28, 2002.

"No person can keep a driver in employment for such a long time, for 13 years, who has brought a bad name to him," said Shinde.

The defence should have made the claim that there were in fact four people in the car (including Ashok Singh) at the start of the trial and not at the fag end, he added.

According to the police, the car had three occupants: Salman in driver's seat, his police bodyguard Ravindra Patil who passed away during the trial in 2007, and Kamaal Khan.

The prosecutor said that Salman was driving the car and his bodyguard Ravindra Patil was sitting to his left while Kamaal Khan was on the rear seat.

Shinde dwelt on the testimonies of injured eye-witnesses: Muslim Nimayat Shaikh, Mannu Khan, Mohammed Kalim Iqbal Pathan and Mohammed Abdullah Shaikh.

He pointed out that Mannu Khan had seen Salman getting out from the right side of the car, which implied that he was driving the car.

Salman's lawyer had argued that the left side door had jammed due to the impact, so the actor got down from the right side after the driver Ashok Singh got down.

Mannu Khan had also testified about seeing Salman falling down, getting up and again falling down and getting up. "This showed the actor was drunk," Shinde argued.

The prosecution witnesses Fransis Daiman Fernandes and Ramasare Ramdev Pande had seen Salman leaving the place within minutes after the incident, Shinde said.

"If at all he (Salman) was not driving and if at all he had not taken alcohol, nothing prevented him from standing at the spot," the prosecutor said, contending that it was a case of drunken driving and hit-and-run.

"Four persons were injured and one died...a common man with a reasonable sense will go to the nearest police station and tell what has happened," he said.

Shinde also rejected the defence lawyer's argument that Nurullah Mehboob Sharif, the deceased, got killed only because the car got detached from the crane (when it was being lifted to rescue the victims trapped underneath) fell on him.

"The (word) 'crane' gives a different impression. It is actually a towing van with a crane mounted on it," he said.

The prosecutor also rejected the defence argument that one of the tyres of the car burst, leading to the accident.

The tyre burst due to the impact when the car rammed into shop, he said, adding that therefore no marks (of tyres skidding) were found on the road.

It was the case of the prosecution that no attempt was made to stop the vehicle by applying brakes, he added.

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