Twelve years after a Toyota Land Cruiser rammed into American Express bakery in Bandra, killing one person and injuring four others, the driver of Bollywood superstar Salman Khan said it was he and not the actor who was driving the vehicle.

Ashok Singh, Salman Khan’s driver, denied that he was being paid to depose in Khan’s favour. Pic/PTI
Ashok Singh, Salman Khan’s driver, denied that he was being paid to depose in Khan’s favour. Pic/PTI

The driver said he decided to speak after the actor’s father, Salim Khan, asked him to “tell the truth.” After Salman deposed in court on Friday, accusing the police of implicating him in a false case, his driver, Ashok Singh, corroborated the actor’s version (‘I was not drinking or driving: Salman’, March 28).

Singh, deposing in court during his examination by Salman’s lawyer Shrikant Shivade, said, “I was driving the Land Cruiser when Salman left from J W Marriott hotel. After I came to Hill Road, the car’s front left tyre burst and, hence, the vehicle got dragged towards the left. I tried to control it but the steering become hard.

I tried to apply the brakes but the vehicle had already climbed the stairs of the bakery. As told by Salman, I informed the police about the incident.” Singh further said he went to Bandra police station and narrated the whole incident. “They asked me to sit but they didn’t take my complaint,” he said.

'Didn’t realise'
During his cross-examination by Special Public Prosecutor Pradip Gharat, Singh told the court, “I have been working with the Khan family since 1990. Salman Khan used to help the staff whenever needed. I am devoted to Salman. But that doesn’t mean I will sacrifice my life for him.

I felt I was responsible for accident and Salman had to face its consequences.” When Gharat asked why he kept quiet since September 2002 if he felt his employer bore the brunt of his alleged mistake, Singh said, “It didn’t strike me that I should come to the court.”

When asked what had prompted him to speak up now, Singh said it was Salim Khan who advised him to “tell the truth.” Singh denied he was being paid to depose in favour of the actor. To another of Gharat’s question as to why Singh didn’t say anything to the media or the crowd gathered outside the police station when Salman got bail, he said, “I didn’t tell the media.

How could I have gone against the police?” Invoking movie scenes wherein after a case has been registered a person comes to the witness box during court proceedings to speak about the crime, Gharat asked why Singh had not done the same.

“I didn’t have enough understanding to do so,” was his reply. Singh is the first defence witness to depose. The court will hear the matter again today and the defence has been given the opportunity to produce more witnesses. Final arguments are expected to be heard thereafter.