Salman's plea dismissed, to face trial in hit-and-run case

Mumbai, June 24 (IANS) In a major setback to Bollywood superstar Salman Khan, a Mumbai court Monday rejected his review plea challenging a magistrate's order for a re-trial in the 2002 hit-and-run case on charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

Salman has been given one month's time to appear before the sessions court and face trial in the case, Sessions Judge U.B. Hejib said in his ruling delivered in an open court Monday afternoon.

The date for starting the re-trial has been fixed for July 19.

If convicted, the 47-year-old actor could face a 10-year jail sentence as stipulated under Section 304 (II) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The case relates to the time the actor's SUV ran over pavement dwellers in suburban Bandra in the early hours of Sep 28, 2002, killing one and injuring four others.

In his verdict, Judge Hejib said that the offence of "culpable homicide not amounting to murder" had been made out against the actor in the accident case.

Earlier, Salman Khan had been tried by a Bandra metropolitan magistrate under the less serious charge under Section 304(A) (causing death by negligence) of IPC, which carries a two-year jail sentence.

The magistrate later invoked Section 304 (II) of IPC after examining 17 witnesses and transferred the case for re-trial by the session court.

Strongly opposing it, Salman Khan's lawyer Ashok Mundargi had argued that the magistrate's order was "erroneous, bad in law and contrary to evidence on record".

He contended that the magistrate had failed to appreciate that the actor had neither the intention to kill people, nor knowledge that his rash and negligent driving could kill one person and injure four more.

Countering the arguments, public prosecutor S. Erande pointed out that a prosecution witness, the late Ravindra Patil, who was a police personal bodyguard for Salman, had repeatedly warned the actor not to drive rashly as it could lead to an accident.

But Salman did not heed and drove at high speed, leading to accident, said Erande, while opposing the actor's appeal.

The magistrate had rightly invoked the charge of culpable homicide as the actor had committed a serious offence, he added.

Erande further stated that Salman's blood samples revealed that he was inebriated, with 60 mg alcohol, which is beyond permissible limits for driving.

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