New Delhi: The Supreme Court of India on Friday sought the response from Bollywood superstar Salman Khan on Maharashtra government's appeal against his acquittal in the 2002 hit-and-run case, observing that exoneration from the top court would "vindicate him once and for all".
"Acquittal from this Court is important. If you (Salman Khan) are acquitted from here, you will be vindicated once and for all," a bench comprising justices J. S. Khehar and C. Nagappan said while issuing notice to Khan on the plea of Maharshtra government.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the state, said the Bombay High Court had erred on two points while acquitting the filmstar.
"Firstly, the High Court had erred in its finding by holding that there was 'erroneous application' of Section 33 of Evidence Act (relevancy of certain evidence for proving, in subsequent proceeding, the truth of facts therein stated) by the trial court," he said.
Rohtagi said that on second count, the High Court had erred by holding that the prosecution witness Ravindra Patil, a constable who was guarding the actor and had first called the police, was not a "wholly reliable witness" and his version needed corroboration with accounts of other witnesses.
The High Court took note of the fact that Patil, while recording his statement in his FIR, had said everything except the fact that Khan was drunk on that fateful night, he said.
"Recording of the FIR is just an information about an incident and the FIR is not an encyclopaedia," Rohtagi said.
The Attorney General said that Patil in his statement had said the actor had first gone to 'Rain Bar and Restaurant' at Vile Parle before ramming his Toyota Lexus car into a shop in suburban Bandra on September 28, 2002.
In the accident one person lost his life and several were injured and Patil's statement said that three persons, Salman Khan, his singer friend Kamal Khan and he himself, were in the SUV, Rohatgi said.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Khan, said that in the FIR recorded on the statement of Patil, there was no mention of the actor being drunk.
"He was a police officer and the first thing he would have said was that the actor was drunk," he said adding the other eye witness Kamal Khan was not examined. Sibal said the family driver, Ashok Singh, who deposed as a defence witness was also interrogated by the police but his statement was not recorded by the Investigating Officer (IO).
The bench then asked Sibal what will the IO record if Ashok Singh does not say anything. Sibal further said that Patil in a newspaper interview just a day after the incident had refuted the suggestion that the actor was drunk while being behind the wheel.
Rohtagi intervened and said the High Court had rejected this piece of evidence and it cannot be cited in the apex court.
The bench after hearing the arguments posted the matter for further hearing after six weeks.
The Maharashtra government's appeal contained 47 grounds to assail the high court's verdict and sought restoration of the trial court's decision by which the 50-year-old actor was convicted and sentenced to five-year-jail term.
Among other grounds, the petition said, "High Court has erred in brushing aside the alcohol examination certificate and the evidence of the assistant chemical analyzer just because there was some alleged delay in taking the blood samples and for sending it to the chemical analyzer."
The high court, in its verdict passed on December 10 last year, had held that prosecution had failed to prove "beyond reasonable doubt" that the actor was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident and was drunk.
The high court judgement had come on an appeal by the superstar, seven months after he was pronounced guilty by trial court of running over five people sleeping on a pavement outside a laundry in suburban Bandra with his Toyota Land Cruiser, killing one and causing injury to four others. On May 6 last year, a sessions court had convicted Salman in the case.