Family, police, and reporters packed the courtroom to await the verdict; Judge Deshpande wasted no time in court formalities and briefed the star on the enormity of the crime; the verdict was delivered at 1.30 pm sharp
There was high drama at the city Sessions court on Thursday, where the judge announced his verdict in the 2002 Salman Khan hit-and-run case.
A police squad stands guard outside the sessions court during the trial proceedings of the hit-and-run case. Pics/Satyajit Desai
The court found him guilty on all charges and sentenced him to five years in prison. There were lots of twists and turns throughout the whole day before Salman got interim relief from the Bombay High Court. Salman’s PR manager Reshma Shetty gave away money to cleaners and staff at the sessions court and declared, “Salman won’t come here again.”
A cameraman follows Bollywood actor and filmmaker Arbaaz Khan, Salman’s younger brother, outside the court yesterday
Salman’s brothers, Arbaaz and Sohail, sisters, Arpita and Alvira, and Bollywood personalities Ramesh Taurani and Nikhil Dwivedi were present at the court, along with the star’s several bodyguards. Security had been beefed up at the court since 8 am. Over 200 reporters had gathered to cover the event.
At 10 am, the court started to fill up. Several reporters and lawyers entered Court No 52 at the fourth floor of the city Sessions court. Soon, the court was jam-packed with over 200 policemen, lawyers and reporters. Sohail Khan and actor Atul Agnihotri were seated at the back. The court was so packed that Salman’s sister Arpita could not get in.
Later, she accompanied her sister Alvira and sat in the front row. Salman had also arrived with his sisters, but the actor did not enter the court. He waited outside in the passage. At 10.38 am, Salman entered the court. The May heat was making the assembled audience sweat profusely.
Hoping against hope
Salman then took the stand, appearing outwardly calm. The Bollywood superstar was wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans. His gaze immediately turned towards the gathering. Salman’s sisters were seen praying, waiting for the judge to arrive.
Judge D W Deshpande arrived at 11.05 am and straightaway told the actor that the courts had found him guilty in the hit-and-run case, and that he was driving under the influence of alcohol, because of which one person had died in the accident.
Judge Deshpande then asked Salman if he wanted to say anything, to which the actor replied that he respected the court’s judgment and had nothing to say. Salman’s relatives broke into tears after that. After the judge’s comments started an hour-long submission from Salman’s lawyer, Shrikant Shivade, where he cited a lot of examples of Salman’s charity work. While the submission was going on, more people were trying to enter the court.
Salman’s lawyer and bodyguard tried to keep people at bay, but the situation was slowly getting out of control. The hearing was stopped twice due to disturbances. A woman, who was not a journalist or a lawyer, started a commotion. She was asked to leave but she sat down inside the court, after which women cops took her out.
The police tried to maintain silence in the court but could not. A number of journalists and lawyers were standing outside the court in the passage, desperately wanting to get in. In midst of all this bedlam, an inspector inside the court told a few women journalists in the passage that there was “no need for women inside the court” and heated arguments followed between the cops and journalists.
Many lawyers had their way and managed to enter the courtroom. At 11.45 am, the proceedings were halted and the judge ordered the commotion to stop, and court’s doors were closed. More cops were called in and a few people were pushed outside the doors before they were shut.
At the end of the submission, Salman’s lawyer told the court that the actor was suffering from a severe ailment and would suffer trauma if he is sent to jail. Salman seemed visibly agitated after the lawyer’s disposition and was seen gesturing to his sisters, trying to tell them not to speak about his ailment in public. With this intervention, Salman’s lawyer ended his submission.
All the while Salman kept looking at his lawyer and sisters. Special Public Prosecutor Pradeep Gharat finished his submission in 15 minutes. In between, Sohail Khan left the court as it was known that Salman’s mother’s was not keeping well. Arbaaz entered the court later. The judge announced a break and said that the judgment would be delivered at 1.10 pm.
People remained seated and waited in the courtroom; the humidity and heat inside the chamber was almost intolerable now. After the judge left the court at 12.30 pm, Salman got down from the stand and patted a constable standing near him, and gave him a smile. Salman’s sisters rushed to him and hugged him while Salman was seen standing near the window of the courthouse.
Electricity then went off in the room, worsening the oppressive heat of a very humid summer day. There was some construction work going on opposite the courtroom, and labourers had scaled bamboo poles to get a glimpse of the star. To make the situation worse, there was no drinking water to go around. Salman’s bodyguards brought cool-water bottles for the actor and his family.
They also distributed several bottles to lawyers, cops and journalists. While Salman was standing near the window, he was seen speaking over a phone. Judge Deshpande came at 1.30 pm and asked the officials to attend to the power outage. The lights then immediately came on and the verdict was pronounced. When the judge sentenced Salman to five years in prison, there was a huge uproar from the audience.
His relatives broke into tears and the judge left the court within 5 minutes of the verdict. Then what followed could have come out of a Bollywood courtroom drama. Salman’s lawyer immediately decided to go to the Bombay High Court for bail. The cops, on the other hand, had made preparations to take Salman first for a medical examination to J J Hospital and than take him into custody. Security was beefed up at J J Hospital.
A Salman female fan managed to enter the courtroom; she was seen telling a reporter that all would be fine, as she was praying for the superstar. Salman got the message and was seen smiling.
Salman’s relatives, bodyguards and a few cops shielded the actor, as several people were trying to photograph him inside the court, an activity that is forbidden. Earlier during the hearing, an advocate was caught trying to film Salman Khan.
Several lawyers and cops, who were not part of the case, came to the courtroom to catch a glimpse of the star. Several fans were waiting in the passage outside the court. A blind man told reporters that he wanted to meet the judge to request him to release Salman, as “he does good work for poor people.”
At 6.30 pm, the actor ate some vada pav with his family; he had apparently not had anything to eat since morning. In the evening, Salman got interim relief from the Bombay High Court.