Mumbai: Facing charges of culpable homicide in the 2002 hit-and-run case, Bollywood actor Salman Khan today contended that he was not driving the vehicle and it was not speeding even as he alleged that "evidence had been manufactured to falsely implicate him".
His lawyer Srikant Shivade told Judge D W Deshpande that it was Khan's driver Ashok Singh and not the actor who was driving the Toyota Land Cruiser SUV at the time of the mishap and that this has been brought out in the examination of Singh as defence witness.
"Merely because Salman Khan had got down from the driver's side does not mean that he was driving"...We have explained this in cross-examination (of defence witness) and also in the statement of the accused (Khan)," said his lawyer Srikant Shivade who commenced final arguments today.
Khan, 49, is accused of ramming his SUV in a roadside bakery in suburban Bandra on September 28, 2002, killing one person and injuring four who were sleeping outside. The prosecution has also alleged he was drunk and was driving without a licence, a charge denied by the actor.
Contesting the prosecution case that witnesses saw Khan getting down from the driver's side as he was driving, Shivade said, "This is because the left door got jammed in the impact of the mishap and did not oppen".
There is no reason why Khan's statement in the court and Singh's testimony should not be accepted, he argued while picking up holes in the prosecution's case.
The defence taken by the accused that he was not driving and Singh was behind the wheel was not an "afterthought" as claimed by the prosecution, his lawyer said.
The only access for a person sitting on the front left side was to get down from the right side as the left door was jammed and did not open...There was no other choice and that is what Salman did, Shivade argued.
Referring to prosecution's charge that Khan was driving at a speed of 90 to 100 kms per hour, his lawyer said this was not possible.
The distance between J W Marriot hotel (where the actor had gone with a friend and brother) and the mishap spot was 7 to 8 kms, while the time taken by his car to cover this distance was between 2.15 am to 2.45 am, Shivade submitted to buttress his argument that the vehicle was not speeding.
Arguing before Judge D W Deshpande, Khan's lawyer referred to evidence of three witnesses -- Rain Bar Manager, Khan's police bodyguard Ravindra Patil and dairy-owner Ramshrey Pandey -- who said there were four persons in the car, though prosecution has claimed there were three persons.
Besides Khan, his police bodyguard Ravindra Patil and singer friend Kamal Khan, the fourth person was Ashok Singh, Khan's driver, who was driving the car at the relevant time", said Shivade.
However, the police supressed this evidence and have not mentioned Ashok Singh in the First Information Report, said the defence lawyer.
Shivade argued that the supplementary statement of the eye witness Ravindra Patil, who died during the earlier trial, was recorded on October 1, 2002, in the absence of the accused (Khan).
Although he was the first prosecution witness, PW-1, his statement was recorded at the fag end. Thus Salman was denied an opportunity to cross examine other witnesses regarding Patil's evidence, he argued.
"Thus, there was an ulterior motive to cause prejudice to the accused (Khan) and put him at an disadvantage," Shivade alleged.
He said Patil's statement recorded in the earlier trial before a Magistrate should not be used in this fresh trial because the aggravated charge of 'culpable homicide not amounting to murder' was added.
Issues involved in both the trials are substantially not the same in view of the aggravated charge of culpable homicide which attracts punishment upto ten years. The earlier charge of rash and negligent driving prescribes two years jail, the lawyer submitted.
"The prosecution theory has grey areas, not just grey areas, but black areas," the defence lawyer said adding that some witnesses, including dairy-owner Ramshrey Pandey and an injured witness, have said that they saw four persons -- two had got down of the car while the two were in the vehicle.
Though witnesses have deposed that there were four persons in the car, the prosecution has maintained that there were three persons occupying Khan's Land Cruiser at the relevant time, he said.
Seeking to demolish the prosecution story, Khan's lawyer said police had not recorded the statement of Yogesh Kadam, a staffer of J W Marriot hotel who took charge of parking of Land Cruiser car belonging to the actor on the night of the mishap.
It is the case of the prosecution that the actor first went to Rain Bar and then to J.W Marriot hotel before ramming his car into a shop in the wee hours of September 28, 2002.
"Yogesh Kadam's statement was not recorded while his colleague Kalpesh Verma, who gave his account to police, is silent about who was driving the car....Thus, the theory that the car is driven by the accused stands disproved," the defence lawyer said.
Shivade said Verma was called to police station but he has no idea why he was called. "The media was painting me (Khan) black and this person (Verma) has seen me last. And he does not know why he was called....He is a planted witness," the lawyer alleged.
Shivade also questioned the role of Kishan Shengal, the then senior inspector of Bandra police station. "The tag (while vehicles are parked) is an important evidence. The person (Kadam) who has seen Khan and his group entering the hotel was never examined.
The tag, which has details like car number, name of driver, name of person who does the valet parking and who hands over the car back, is not available or mentioned in the notable register or as muddamal (seized material).
"Where has it gone? It is a manufactured evidence.... rather refrigerated evidence of Shengal in ante-chamber," he quipped.
Shivade said that if Kadam was examined he could have given an idea as to how many persons were sitting in the car and who was driving when the car entered.
During the recording of statement under section 313 of the Cr.PC, Khan had said that at J W Marriot hotel, driver Altaf was replaced by Ashok Singh. "At the porch after the car was handed over and they got into the vehicle....The doors were closed as AC would be switched on but no one suggested that from here Khan drove the car to the spot where the mishap occurred," he said.
The arguments of Khan would continue on April 15 while the prosecution would submit written arguments on April 13.
A fresh trial is being conducted after the earlier magistrate's court added the aggravated charge of culpable homicide. The earlier charge of rash and negligent driving provides for imprisonment upto only two years.