Mumbai: The Bombay High Court (HC) didn’t exactly answer that. Strictly speaking, it was not bound to as the case related only to whether Salman was at the wheel or not on the day of the accident.
The whodunnit can only be answered by the Supreme Court now – if the Maharashtra government goes on appeal.
All that was clear on Thursday were these: Salman was not drinking and driving, and he is not guilty.
Salman’s lawyers had argued in the lower court that Nurulla Sharif died when the damaged car fell on him after slipping from a crane called in by the police to tow it away. The actor’s family driver, Ashok Singh, had claimed that he was driving the car.
Justice AR Joshi of the HC, too, rejected these arguments. But it didn’t go against the actor as he pronounced that “the prosecution had failed in proving that he (Khan) was guilty”.
On May 6, the lower court had convicted the actor and sentenced him to five years’ imprisonment. On Thursday, the HC quashed the order, saying, “The trial court had erred in accepting the prosecution evidence.”
As to Salman running away from the scene and whether he would be punishable under the Motor Vehicles Act for not offering medical aid to the person injured by the car in which he was seated, the HC observed: “The mob gathered after the accident was in a furious mood. Some were even carrying rods and other things in their hands. In the considered view of this court, the charge cannot be attracted, considering the then circumstances.”
In any case, since the case was only against Khan, the HC cannot now order the arrest of Singh or carry out further investigations.
The case, naturally, had drawn a lot of public attention and many believed that the actor was indeed guilty. Justice Joshi had a few words on this public perception.
“Law does not have any place for general public opinion. It cannot be swayed away by any popular belief that a particular accused, because of his standing in society, could have committed the offence…,” he said adding “Mere suspicion cannot be an accepted material to hold a person guilty.”
Justice Joshi also said that the probe into the case had various flaws. He said not recording evidences of appropriate witnesses and omissions in injured witnesses’ testimony would definitely create a doubt about the involvement of Salman. “The entire evidence was circumstantial in nature,” he said.
With these words, he acquitted Salman of all charges in the case.
Salman, meanwhile, was called to appear before the HC on Thursday to hear the judgment. He looked drowsy and non-emotional. Pronounced free, Salman broke down in tears. His brother-in-law Ayush Sharma and sister Alvira Agnihotri were beside him.
Later, he composed himself and smiled at his lawyers.
The actor later tweeted: “I accept the decision of the judiciary with humility. I thank my family, friends and fans for their support and prayers.”
For Khan, it means an end to a 13-year ordeal. But all is not over yet. There’s still the black buck case.
What’s the hit-and-run case?
On September 28, 2002, Salman Khan is alleged to have been in an inebriated state and driving and ran over five persons, who were sleeping outside a laundry in Bandra. One person – Nurulla Sharif – succumbed to his injuries. The other four suffered injuries.
What’s the state stand?
Minister of state for home Ram Shinde told mediapersons that the state government would decide whether to approach the SC or not on Monday or Tuesday. He said that since the HC verdict came only on Thursday, the government is yet to receive a copy of the judgment. After receiving it, the state would send it to law department for advice and take a call.
What’s the black buck case?
Tata group is working on India’s first indigenous driverless car and ultra hi-tech cars for future. Senior company officials told dna that the pro-type is planned to be rolled out for testing in two years.
Several companies of Tata Sons are contributing to the research and development (R&D) of the ambitious projects, with Tata Elxsi leading it, said sources close to the project.
According to information available, the proposed driverless car is expected to have 12 cameras for roaming guidance. It may be equipped with 5 to 6 laser sensors. For future hi-tech cars, Tata Elxsi is conducting research on communications systems, particularly communication between two cars and communications between car and smart infrastructure. This communication system will also be exploited to alert car before any collision with any object. Cars could be controlled through mobile phones, tables and other wearable electronic devices.
In addition, these cars will be developed in a way that preventive maintenance can be done from a remote location. Technology of cloud computing will be utilized at various stages to control car and hi-tech future cars.
Apart from Tata Elxsi, the new technology development company of Tata Sons, several Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) have also been working on the project.
Tel Aviv University (TAU) of Israel has been assigned to develop ultra-high resolution efficient camera for the car. Tata group has invested in a fund of Ramot, which is a wholly-owned company of Tel-Aviv University. Ramot is the only company of TAU which offers various new technologies & products being developed by TAU for commercial utilization.
E-mails seeking response on the driverless car project to various Tata group companies such as Tata Elxsi and Tata Motors remained unanswered.
With this project, Tata group plans to showcase its strengths in new technology field and financial power.