Salman Khan was granted bail, barely three hours after he was convicted in the 2002 hit-and-run case. Before the dinner, he was back at the family home, the Galaxy Apartments.
“Justice is open to everyone in the same way as the Ritz Hotel”. ~Judge Sturgess
The Trial Court in its long 440 page verdict had said that all the allegations against him had been proven, and still he got an interim bail within hours, solely managing it on archaic technical grounds…even in this age of online availability of the copy of verdict!
So how did the superstar return home the same day he was convicted of serious charges and sentenced to five years in jail? Legal experts say, there were two factors responsible – Khan seemed to have gone to court prepared with a course of action in case he was convicted and, as soon as he was convicted, he hired the best he could find, Harish Salve, who has been described as the most expensive lawyer in India.
Arguing in the high court, Khan’s lawyer said: “We have not received the copy of the order. We have attached the operative part.”
While granting interim bail, Justice Abhay Thipse said that the copy of the order had not been delivered yet. “The order could have been pronounced when the copy was ready. It should not have been delivered if the copy is not ready,” he said.
And mind it, Salman Khan was continuously on bail for last 13 years, before he was convicted by the Sessions Court on every count!
Mumbai Sessions Court judge, D.W. Deshpande was clear in his judgement. On September 28, 2002, an inebriated Salman Khan, was driving a powerful Land Cruiser in the Mumbai suburb of Bandra, late at night. He lost control and ploughed into some people sleeping on the pavement. One person was killed and four others seriously injured. Khan fled from the scene.
While delivering his judgment, the Judge had pronounced: “You (Salman Khan), were driving the car, without a licence, and you were under the influence of alcohol. All charges have been proved against you.” It was a clear and staid summation.
Undoubtedly, our justice delivery system is not as proactive in case of a common prisoner or the poor. At least 2.54 lakh poor and unprivileged under trials, many of whom may be innocent, are made to languish behind bars for their failure to procure bail.
It has been estimated that out of 3.81 lakh prisoners across the country, about 2.54 lakh are undertrials. Only one-third, or 1.27 lakh, of those in jails have been convicted and are serving their sentence.
In British India, the ratio of undertrials to convicts was just the reverse where two-thirds of the prison population was those convicted.
According to Government’s own assessment, many of these undertrials have spent more time in jail than the sentence they would have got had they been convicted for the crime they were arrested for, which is against the law of the land.
Apart from senior Lawyer Harish Salve who appeared for Salman Khan’s bail in Bombay High Court, who reportedly charges Rs. 30 lakhs for a single appearance, there were ace criminal lawyer Srikant Shivade and a whole battery of lawyers’ team comprising of Niranjan Mundargi, Anannd Desai, Nirav Shah, Chandrima Mitra and Manhar Sain to defend Salman Khan!
Their brief was simple, to keep Salman out on bail as long as possible so that he could fulfil his commitments for the Film industry where many crores were involved! And, the legal technicality is that, since an appeal is treated as a ‘continuation of trial’, the bail conditions of the trial automatically apply.
The catch, however, is that by having an interim bail so fast, by High Court, Khan was kept out of jail for more time, at least…because the colonial hangover of Court’s summer vacation was forthcoming. So a regular bail kept him easily out of jail and allowed him to fly for a film shoot in the distance cool of Kashmir!
One wonders why such haste for granting bail? If this is the trend, one fear, who would bother about a Session Court judgment that even took 13 long years, due to some reason or other!
Even in high profile cases too, it took 21 days for former chief minister of Tamil Nadu J Jayalalithaa to obtain bail after she was convicted and sentenced to four years in jail in a corruption case on September 27, 2014. Similarly, it took more than 80 days for former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav to get bail in the fodder scam case.
“But Salman, after being slapped a surprisingly long sentence, got an interim bail, and then a regular bail – first within a matter of two hours, and the next relief in two days, primarily due to his celebrity status,” former special public prosecutor for human rights court and advocate V Kannadasan told the newspaper ‘Times of India’.
However, he pointed out, High Courts do have power to grant bail in appeals without even issuing notice, if the sentence is up to seven years.
“There are two interesting aspects: One, even the sensational and infamous BMW case of 1999 ended in two-year jail term for Sanjeev Nanda, though he had run over six people, including three police personnel. Two, people like Subrata Roy of Sahara group spening long periods in jail even without any chargesheet, trial or conviction,” said M Antony Selvaraj, national chairman of All India Association of Jurists (AIAJ).
The solemn proclamation of Justice is equal to all…becomes somehow a hollow promise in the public eyes!
And we are hearing all these years: ‘Justice must not only be Done, but must be Seen to be Done.’
“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”
Supreme Court advocate Rebecca Mammen John found the bail to Salman unusual. She told to a newspaper: “I know nothing about the Salman Khan case except that it was a hit-and-run case and that a poor citizen of this country died. I also know that Salman Khan was convicted and handed out a five-year sentence.
When a person is sentenced to three years or below, the CrPc allows the trial court to suspend the sentence to enable the accused to file an appeal in the higher court.
“But where a five-year sentence is handed out, that rule does not apply and the accused is taken into custody forthwith .The High Court’s order on Wednesday allowing him to go home the same day and it’s order today suspending his sentence pending final disposal of his appeal, without his having served any time, is very unusual. Processes must be respected and the law must apply equally to everyone,” she said.
Asked for his comment on the bail , the well-known special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said, though it was a rare happening but the law has the provision.
“The celebrity accused is always ready with all the weapons and this is exactly what Salman has done. Salman got the bail on technical grounds. A normal man does not think of such things but that does not mean it cannot happen. How can a common man hire such renowned lawyers at the last moment?” he gave a reason for it.
Legal experts say that, of course, Salman had the right to apply for bail and go in appeal. But the speed at which everything happened has surprised many. Some say they’ve not seen other accused get the benefit Salman has got.
Said Nitin Pradhan, a senior lawyer who filed a PIL for payment of compensation to the accident victims, “In the 1970s and early 1980s, interim bail was granted but the practice was discontinued. It is not illegal; just that it is not practised commonly now.”
Lawyer Abha Singh, who had earlier filed a petition questioning the police investigation, and due to whose tenacity the case was saved from sheer irregularity and derailment, said, “The message goes out that after 13 years, when you want to move, everything works in three hours, as if there are two sets of procedures. The judicial system is tilted in favour of the rich and a poor man can’t get justice, can’t pay for big lawyers.”
Former Chief Justice of India VN Khare however believes that, had the Government wanted it, the judgement could have come much earlier. There is no reason why it should take 13 years for the prosecution to collect evidence and examine and cross examine 27 witnesses, he said to press.
“The case was delayed just because the government did not want to bring the actor to book,” he told the online news portal Firstpost.
Senior journalist Rahul Singh has quoted a case. The renowned British Jockey, Lester Piggott, years ago, was found guilty of a much lesser crime, that of tax evasion.
His lawyer had pleaded that since his client was such a famous figure, loved by so many of his fans, the judge should be lenient on him. On the contrary, the British Judge replied, because he is so famous, the punishment must be exemplary. And he then proceeded to give Piggott the maximum sentence for evading taxes. That was British justice at its very best, according to Singh.
Salman Khan had been granted a quick bail and he was home for dinner. So what had the ‘day of judgement’ come to mean? Had justice been done to poor daily wage earner, Nurullah Mehboob, who died in the accident, and four others, who were injured? What does this mean in a country where 50,000 people die in hit-and-run cases every year?
With no standard operating procedure for accident cases, shoddy investigation often allows even drunk drivers to go free.
Abha Singh, who planned to appeal to the High Court for investigating the role of the police, says, “It became a public movement after my press conference.
Only 24 of the 64 witnesses were examined. The police could have issued a red corner notice for Kamal Khan, who had signed a bond saying he would be available when needed. The role of the police is suspect because they even had Salman performing at one of their functions”.
Nikhil Wagle, a senior journalist and activist who had filed a PIL on this case in 2002, along with other journalists, said: “Every accused will go to the High Court, the Supreme Court. But there are many unanswered questions. Why 13 years? What is the role of the police? What was the role of defence lawyers? All along, the Police mishandled the case and Section 304(ii), under which he’s been convicted, was not applied till there was a public outcry.”
Wagle also said that says the defence randomly abused the system, challenging different sections at every step. The police did not protect prime witness Ravindra Patil, Salman’s police bodyguard, who suffered from psychological problems after pressure was mounted on him to change his deposition and died a lonely death after being found on roadside!
Hypocrisy of Bollywood
All the top Bollywood actors and actresses made a beeline at Salman Khan’s place, once the verdict date of the 2002 case was coming near. As if, it was not a case of driving a car recklessly on hapless sleeping footpath dwellers at night in an inebriated state, but going to jail for some highly commendable heroic deed!
People even went further. Singer Abhijeet tweeted some loathsome comments, quite unacceptable. He tweeted,
Mumbai ke road Aur footpath pe sone ka shauk hai ?? Y not at your village
no vehicles to kill u.. Support @BeingSalmanKhan @sonakshisinha
— abhijeet (@abhijeetsinger) May 6, 2015
Roads are meant for cars and dogs not for people sleeping on
them.. @BeingSalmanKhan is not at fault at all..@arbaazSkhan @sonakshisinha
Come out fraternity, support @BeingSalmanKhan boldly not hypocritically
Roads footpath r not meant 4 sleeping, not driver’s or alcohol’s fault.
— abhijeet (@abhijeetsinger) May 6, 2015
And there were several such, social media comments from the film fraternity, in support of Salman Khan!
An none of the Khans or anyone from the film fraternity protested, Rishi Kapoor might be the only exception!
The National Crime Records Bureau data reveals there were 1.37 lakh road accident fatalities and 3.8 lakh court cases pending under IPC 304-A in 2013 .
Because there are no reliable statistics on the prosecution of road accident cases, we can only assume that a significant chunk of the 3.8 lakh cases were road accident deaths.
While 14,147 of these cases ended in conviction, 42,524 cases were acquitted in 2013, revealing a low conviction rate.
Charudutt Acharya a director and producer of some low budget films, narrated on Facebook, about his plight after he also met an accident on Mumbai roads: “A young woman from Pali Hill (incidentally daughter of a film industry bigwig) rammed her car full speed into the auto that I was travelling. The auto turned turtle. My left leg was an unrecognizable mess. The auto driver, miraculously scratch-less, extricated me from the auto. The young lady and her friend, who had got out of the car, saw the mess, sat back in the car and took off.
Salman also did the same, though not his, in someone else’s car, fled from the spot, without helping the victims or taking them to hospital!
Chardutt wrote: “… She was never convicted. I did not have medical or life insurance.
I had three more surgeries over the next few years. I have never walked straight since. I live with this partial permanent disability, making do with a walking stick.
He continues: “What I want to say is this. There is a HIT and there is a RUN. A hit can happen due to various reasons including elevated levels of alcohol in the blood. But a run happens when there are elevated levels of inhumanity and arrogance in the blood. A run happens when there is confidence in a corrupt system to back you up. A run happens when you know that money and ‘Bhai power’ can ‘settle’ things.
Salman Khan ran for 13 years. He first ran from the accident site and then did all money and power could do to keep himself running.
This case is really not about drunken driving. It’s about shameless, cowardly running. A macho star running from the ghosts of victims of a ‘single –screen’ class that subsidizes his stardom, and a shit scared, spineless film industry running to absurdly defend the star who subsidizes their 100 crore clubs.
So each one of you who is expressing rage over this verdict and standing in solidarity and support for Salman Khan,…!!!
Los Angeles Time’s Shashank Bengali was earlier posted in Sudan, Somalia, Syria and Afghanistan, His Indian assignment was not that happening, but he found the Bollywood film world rather hollow and phony.
He wrote: On Friday, it cost him less than $500 to walk away from jail after being found guilty of running over and killing a homeless man. The bail amount, a year’s salary for many Indians, represented about six minutes of work for Khan, 49, who has appealed his conviction and five-year-prison sentence. The Times of India newspaper dubbed it “Salman Khan’s biggest Friday release.”
Hollywood can be ruthless to stars who fall from grace, such as Mel Gibson and O.J. Simpson. Much of India, on the other hand, has rallied around Khan.
After his conviction Wednesday, a parade of fellow stars — their hair perfect, their eyes concealed by expensive sunglasses — visited him at his luxury apartment in Mumbai, India’s film capital, formerly known as Bombay.
Khan has proved particularly popular among Indian Muslims, who account for roughly 13% of the population. In recent years, his big releases have come around the annual Eid holiday, with Muslim families flocking to the cinemas.”
‘Bhai on Bail’ celebration in Mumbai
Bhaijaan, a popular eatery in Bandra was planning to give free Biryani to anyone, for a whole week. If Salman Khan was proclaimed innocent….but it had not happened, so they were dejected, after eagerly waiting for the gala event! . “Now we will down the shutters for a few days” said the owner of the place, when 5 years entrance was announced.
One wonders, what they were celebrating for!
According to the Save Life Foundation, which works on road safety in India, around 50,000 people die in hit-and-run cases in India every year. And at least a million families have been pushed into poverty because of road accidents in the past decade.
Five of those families have been victims in the case. These were five people who were sleeping on the Mumbai’s pavement when Salman Khan’s Toyota Land Cruiser ran over them.
All of them were homeless people and worked for a bakery in suburban Bandra. One person out of four – Nurullah Mehboob Sharif got killed in the accident. Four others – Kalim Mohammed Pathan, Munna Malai Khan, Abdullah Rauf Shaikh and Muslim Shaikh got severely injured.
Nurullah had a son Feroz, who was just 12 when his father died. Now, he works as a mason in Mumbai.
The people were migrant labourers from UP, and they were so poor that none of the victims had any identity proof when thee lawyer provided by Bombay High Court’s Legal Service Aid, appealed to the court for compensation. They did not possess even a ration card!
Nurullah’s widow Farida and son Feroz have been fighting for the compensation, for more than a decade now.
A Sham World!
This is the same Bollywood which flourishes on tonnes of unaccounted money!
The Bharat Shah Case had highlighted, how money from the Gulf syndicates is being piped into Bollywood for faster returns.
Sometimes back, a TV channel conducted a sting operation on some well-known Hindi film directors and producers, who were ever ready to park any amount of Black money to ‘make them white’! Surprisingly, the Government never pursued any investigation!
Two years back, the ‘New York Times; wrote: While Ganglords allegedly finance Bollywood blockbuster movies and use the film industry to launder black money, Bollywood’s connection to the underworld can be traced back to the government regulation that made the film industry ineligible for bank credit, private equity and other legitimate commercial finance,
“As a result, films were financed by ad hoc collections of investors, many of whom were from the construction and trade industries, who charged interest rates as high as 60 to 100 percent,” said Jehil Thakkar, head of media and entertainment for KPMG.
In 2000, the film industry was added to the list of industries recognised by the Indian Government and made eligible for bank financing, a move that theoretically should have helped end its dependency on the underworld, but in reality the trend has never changed.
In 2011, a leaked cable issued by the U.S. Consulate in Mumbai, published by ‘Wikileaks’, revealed the film industries’ linking with the underworld.
“The industry also welcomed funds from gangsters and politicians, looking for ways to launder their ill-gotten gains, known in India as ’black money,’ elaborated the cable.
Mumbai’s gangsters, who moved to Dubai and in other Gulf countries, regularly invite Bollywood actors to their parties in Dubai and Sharjah. And reportedly many top filmstars clandestinely own properties and other business interests abroad.
While reporting in ‘Time’ magazine, Richard Corliss reported that Abu Salem, the top crime syndicate leader, had boasted to Indian journalists prior to his arrest that he had helped finance ‘Devdas’, one of the most expensive films produced in Bollywood! Nothing had been investigated, so the truth is not known.
When the phone of Chhota Shakeel, a dreaded gangster, was tapped by the Mumbai police, they allegedly found that he frequently spoke with several actors, directors and producers related to the Bollywood.
The extent of the malady often came to light, whenever a big underworld arrest is made. In 2001, Nazim Rizvi, who produced the film “Chori Chori Chupke Chupke” was sentenced to six years imprisonment along with his assistant, Abdul Rahim Allahbaksh, for “acting as an organized crime syndicate and committing unlawful acts of extortion by targeting film personalities.”
Bharat Shah, the big diamond trader who was the film’s financier, was also arrested for concealing information about organized crime and the film producer’s contacts to the Pakistan- and Dubai based gangster Chhota Shakeel.
Underworld Don Dawood Ibrahim’s links with Mumbai film stars seems remained intact.
After the 1993 Mumbai blasts, the Government started crackdown and some film personalities were even kept under surveillance.
Dawood now has the controlling interest in the Dubai-based Al-Mansoor Video and Karachi-based SADAF Trading Company, and these two are known for selling pirated Indian films across Gulf region, Pakistan, India, South East Asia, Europe and the United States.
According to the market watchers, SADAF’s biggest market is India. Here, due to lax anti-piracy laws, corrupt enforcing machinery, and a huge market, sales are lucrative and easy. SADAF, according to the industry insiders, controls almost 70 per cent of India’s estimated, around US $2 billion video piracy market.
Two key witnesses, Ravindra Patil (now deceased), the police bodyguard of Salman Khan, and Kamaal Khan, the singer and Salman’s friend, the two persons present in the car at that fateful night had given statements saying that Salman was driving the car. For long 13 years, there was no mentioning of anyone else, But at the fag end of the trial. The defence came out with the info that it was not Salman, but Ashok Singh, his driver, who was driving the car!
The judgement rejected this theory and said: “After 13 years, for the first time under section 313 of the CrPC (accused statement), the accused had first said his driver Altaaf was behind the wheel, later changing it to Singh being the driver. He never suggested this when deceased complainant Ravindra Patil was being cross-examined. Nearly 27 witnesses were examined before me, but the convict never brought up the drivers’ names. It was also never suggested to any of the witnesses that at JW Marriot, Altaaf was feeling giddy (as claimed by the defence) and therefore he called up Singh to come to Marriot in order to drop the accused to his house,” read the judgment copy.
“The accused never even suggested to the initial investigating officer, who recorded the FIR, as well as to later investigating officer Kishen Shengal that a tyre had burst and that it was Singh who was driving when it happened,” added the order copy.
Surprisingly, reporters who visited Ashok Singh’s residence in Versova’s Mhada colony earlier and talked to Singh’s wife Anita, came to know that, in the last 13 years, Singh has never told to his wife that he was driving the car during the accident!
Though the perjury charges against him was not considered by the court, but the questions remained, why he had not surrendered or told it to the police, earlier! Lawyer Abha Singh has commented: All of them talk of his charity and his ‘being human’, but then he brought his poor driver forward to take the blame.
Other hit-and-run cases were completed in four years, how is justice delivered in this case? There must also be punishment for perjury.”
To some, Salman’s hit-and-run case resembles strikingly to Aravind Adiga’s Man Booker-winning novel ‘The White Tiger’ in which, a rich man’s chauffeur, is forced to own up a car accident caused by his boss’s wife. In this novel, Adiga skilfully pronounced the sad obligation of the poor people to the constant callousness of the rich!
Also, there were many loose ends and no one tried to knot them in all these years.
Later in March this year, it was known that, the Toyota Land Cruiser that got involved into accident on that fateful night, in 2002 was registered in the name of a Dubai resident with a bogus address in Mahim!
Kishan Shengal, the investigating officer of the 2002 case, was examined by the prosecution. Shenghal, in his deposition, said after the accident, officers searched the car and found photocopies of the car’s documents. He said the vehicle was registered in the name of one Mohammad Hassan, and the address mentioned was in Mahim.
“The address mentioned on the document of the car was of a flat in Shiv Krupa society in Mahim. When the officers searched for the address, they could not locate it. Hence the police wrote to the post office for help. The reply said there was no such building in Mahim on such name,” Shenghal told the court.
Shenghal further said the documents of the car mentioned Hassan’s native place was in Kerala. The Bandra police, hence, took the help of the Kerala police.
Investigation revealed Hassan had left Kerala and shifted to Dubai.
Sources said the car was imported from Dubai on the name of Mohammad.
In his explanation to the police, the actor had said he had helped Mohammad financially, and the car was kept with him as security against the money!
So many questions. Yet no answers!
By Deep Basu
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