In relief of sorts for Bollywood actor Salman Khan, a Mumbai court Thursday ordered a retrial of his high-profile hit-and-run case of 2002, with all evidence and witnesses to be re-examined, officials said.
Sessions Court Judge D.W. Deshpande, while accepting Khan's plea for a retrial after he was charged under Section 304(2) of the Indian Penal Code (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), has ordered that the trial start Dec 23. The maximum punishment under this section is 10 years in prison.
"At this stage, I cannot say how long the fresh trial will take. It will depend on various aspects like the number of witnesses the prosecution decides to examine. I hope it does not take too long," Khan's lawyer, Shrikant Shivade, told IANS.
Khan, 47, had earlier pleaded that the evidence produced before a magistrate's court should be discarded since he would face a more serious charge, but the prosecution had opposed the fresh trial, terming it a delaying tactic.
Shivade argued that Khan had not been given an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses on the enhanced charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder pinned by the sessions court June 24.
The actor was previously charged and tried by a Bandra magistrate's court under Section 304(A) (rash and negligent driving), which attracts a light sentence of two years in jail.
However, nearly 10 years later, the magistrate held that a case under 304(2) had been made out against Khan and sent the case to a sessions court for trial.
Besides Section 304(2), Khan also faces charges of causing death by negligence, causing hurt by an act, causing grievous hurt and damage or mischief to property and also charges under the Motor Vehicles Act and the Bombay Prohibition Act.
On Sep 28, 2002, an allegedly inebriated Khan, while driving his Toyota Land Cruiser SUV, ran over some pavement dwellers near a bakery in Bandra (West). While one person was killed, four others were injured in the incident.
The trial started September 2005. Nearly four years after the incident, on Oct 6, 2006, the magistrate's court framed 10 charges against the actor.
Almost 10 years later, the magistrate's court ruled that a case was made out against the actor under Section 304(2) and transferred the case to the sessions court. This was challenged by Khan.
The sessions court June 24 upheld the magistrate court's order and ordered a fresh trial in the case, and fixed July 19 for starting the retrial.
Now, the fresh trial is set to start Dec 23, four days before Khan turns 48.