In a severe setback to Bollywood actor Salman Khan, a Mumbai court Wednesday formally c harged him with culpable homicide not amounting to murder in the 2002 hit-and-run accident case.
If found guilty under the stringent Indian Penal Code Section 304(Part two), the actor could face a 10-year prison term.
The trial is expected to start from Aug 16.
However, Salman Khan, 47, today pleaded "not guilty" to this and other charges framed against him by Sessions Judge U.B. Hejib.
The other charges have been slapped under IPC Section 279 (causing death by negligence), and Sections 337, 338, 427, and under the Motor Vehicles Act and the Bombay Prohibition Act.
However, the court accepted an application moved by the actor seeking exemption from personal appearance during the trial and granted the request.
Sessions Judge Hejib directed Salman Khan to remain present before the court whenever required and read out the charges to him.
On June 24, the sessions court upheld a magistrate's order that an offence of culpable homicide not amounting to murder was made out against the actor and dismissed his appeal against the verdict.
The magistrate had tried him under the lesser charge of causing death by negligence under IPC Section 304-A, which stipulates a maximum two-year jail sentence.
Earlier Wednesday morning, Sessions Judge Hejib expressed inability to frame the charges against Salman Khan since he was transferred to a new assignment.
Public prosecutor Shankar Erande urged the court to frame the charges Wednesday itself since the accused actor was planning to travel abroad for two months and it could further delay the 11-year old case.
On Sep 28, 2002, in the early hours, a Land Cruiser allegedly driven by Salman Khan, who was in an inebriated condition, climbed onto a pavement and crushed five, one of whom died, in suburban Bandra.
Accepting a plea by the actor's lawyer Shrikant Shivade, the court also directed the media to exercise restraint in coverage of the trial and report the case proceedings accurately.