Fingerprints not taken from steering wheel: Salman's lawyer

Mumbai: Bollywood actor Salman Khan's lawyer today argued in the Bombay High Court that police had failed to examine the finger-prints from the steering wheel of his vehicle involved in the 2002 hit-and-run case, although they had alleged that the superstar was driving it.

"The finger-prints had not been taken from the steering wheel of the Toyota Land Cruiser by forensic experts though they had examined the finger-prints of the actor after his arrest in the incident," said Amit Desai while arguing for Salman's appeal against the five-year jail term awarded to him on May 6.

The 49-year-old actor was found guilty by a sessions court of ramming his car into a Bandra shop killing one person and injuring four on September 28, 2002.

"When the appellant was in (police) custody, his finger prints were taken (by forensic experts) as per the standard procedure. However, there are no records to suggest whether the finger prints were taken from the steering-wheel," Desai submitted.

Salman has taken a defence that his family driver Ashok Singh was driving the car and not him as alleged by police.

"Had they (police) taken the finger-prints from the steering wheel, they would have come to know whether Salman was driving or Ashok Singh was driving," Desai said.

There are photos of the car but who has clicked them is not on record. Prosecution Witness-19 (Rajendra Keskar, an RTO inspector) says that it was not taken in his presence and PW-26 (police inspector Rajendra Kadam), who was the first to reach the spot, says he has not taken it, Desai pointed out.

The lawyer also questioned why the theory of tyre burst suggested by some witnesses was not investigated. Salman's car veered off from the road after a tyre-burst because of rubbles and stones lying there. Moreover, the standing order of Maharashtra government on investigations of road accidents was not followed and this is evident from the fact that Bandra police did not check the condition of the road at the mishap site, Desai contended.

"PW-26 (police inspector Rajendra Genbapu Kadam), who was the first to reach the spot, says that he does not remember the standing order even if he has read it...he accepts that there is a standing order but he does not remember...This is how investigation is being done," Salman's lawyer submitted.

"He has talked about the tyre burst, but said he had not investigated whether there are tyre marks on the road...when you (prosecution) say the car was at a speed of 90 to 100 kmph and there is a tyre burst, it is your duty to investigate," Desai said adding that there were some road repair work going on and rubbles, gravels and stones were lying on the road.

Desai further argued that just 300 feet away from the mishap site there is a speed-breaker. He wondered how a car could run with a speed of 90 to 100 kmph as indicated by the first informant and an eye-witness late Ravindra Patil who was the former police bodyguard of the actor.

The line of Desai's arguments was to suggest that the car (of Salman) had veered out of the road and turned to the left because of stones and rubbles lying on the road and not due to rash and negligent driving as alleged by prosecution.

Referring to the evidence of PW-19 (Rajendra Sadashiv Keskar, the RTO inspector), Salman's lawyer said "stepping into the court after 13 years, he states that tyres were good and were in a condition to be driven."

However, police ignored the version of Salman's driver Ashok Singh who had told the trial court that he was driving the car on the day of the accident and the police were aware of this because he had gone to police station and narrated what had happened on that day, Desai told Justice A R Joshi who is hearing Salman's appeal.

Arguments would continue tomorrow.

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