On 6th May 2015, Salman Khan was convicted of various offences resulting from his killing and injuring several men when he drove into them. He was drunk. Of course all of you will be well aware of the facts, and may have formed your own opinions on what happened, on the role of the judiciary, the police the power of money and so on and so forth.
This conviction was appealed in the Bombay High Court, and, by a massive 305 page judgement passed on 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th December 2015 by His Lordship the Hon’ble Justice A R Joshi, the conviction was set aside. You can read it here.
I have the 305 page Judgement and have read it. I confess, it is difficult to read. First it is in language that is, to put it mildly, challenging! Secondly, I do not practice Criminal law, so my understanding of the technical aspects are non-existent.
Be that as it may, I have read the Judgement, and I believe, subject to the caveats and disclaimers below, that it is by and large, correct.
Here are my caveats and disclaimers:
1. I believe that Salman was drunk, was driving and did kill and injure the poor workers.
2. For a conviction, the case against the accused should be proven beyond reasonable doubt. I honestly believe that in this case, the prosecution could not prove beyond reasonable doubt, as you shall see.
3. Yes, Salman and team probably used all means, fair and foul to mess up the entire investigation as well as delay the trial. Now let’s be honest, any one of us would do the same, the only question would be how far would we go?
4. I have read the sanctimonious column written by Julio Ribeiro of how Ravindra Patil a very crucial witness suddenly came into money. Yes, he probably did. My question is that the right honourable Mr Ribeiro knew 14 years ago that Ravindra Patil came into money. Why was Mr Ribeiro silent all these years? You can read Ribeiro's article here.
5. As I said earlier, on the technical aspects mentioned in the Judgement, I have no view and often cannot understand them. So, forgive me for this.
6. It is clear that the investigation was botched up [for obvious reasons] the police were corrupt or corrupted as were the prosecution lawyers also for obvious reasons. Could or should His Lordship the Hon’ble Justice A R Joshi taken further steps in his Judgement – passing strictures, ordering enquiries, prosecuting delinquent officers for perjury – is something that troubles me. I believe he should have done something. In fact he has done nothing. Was he correct in simply being a Court of Appeal and dealing with the questions of law placed before him I do not know. In a case so high profile should he have intervened, or is it just too late or not possible?
7. Please do bear in mind that this Judgement has been passed by a Court of Appeal. The basic evidence and facts have already been disclosed in the trial. Hence giving fresh does not happen in an Appeal. The Appeal Court has to only determine the correctness of the original judgement on points of law, not fact.
8. The story is probably not over, what with the Maharashtra Government and citizens wanting to take this further. I believe that in light of the evidence, which I am going to give you later, it will be most difficult to change the acquittal. I do believe that on the technical aspects, where there is an interpretation of a cited case law, there may be scope by way of a different interpretation or fresh case law to change the Judgement.
9. I hope that Salman is jailed.
10. I apologise for the formatting. I am copy pasting from the High Court Judgement which is in PDF. This causes difficulties in formatting in Word.
Now let me demonstrate to you, how the acquittal came about. I will give you 3 instances. They are simply shocking. These 3 or 4 instances are extracted by me from the Judgement. They are NOT my own work.
Which road was Salman driving on?
Yes folks the very basic issue. This is unclear. Let me give you some background. Hill Road and Turner Road in Bandra are like the two vertical lines of the letter `H’. Manuel Gonsalves and St Andrews Road are like the horizontal line in the letter `H’. Manuel Gonsalves and St Andrews Road are parallel to each other and perpendicular to Hill Road and Turner Road. American Express Laundry which is where the accident took place is on Hill Road directly at the exit of St Andrews Road. This is what the Judgement says:
So far as the route taken by the car, it is an admitted position and substantiated by the evidence of Investigating Officer and mainly PW27 Mr. Shengal i.e. the FIRat two places the route by which the car was driven is mentioned as from “St. Andrews Road” to “Hill Road”.
However, it is also an admitted position that the initial words were “Manuel Gonsalves” and these words are cancelled by slanting marks and above these words “St. Andrews” is written. It is significant that though this factual position is admitted by PW27 there is no explanation as to why this alteration was made though it was the defence that the vehicle took the route via Manuel Gonsalves road and the vehicle came to the Hill Road by taking right turn from Manuel Gonsalves road and not from St. Andrews Road.
The Judge returns to this point later in the Judgement. He says:
Again at this juncture it is to be mentioned that there is interpolation in the contents of the First Information Report regarding the route taken by the car while coming to the Hill Road. The earlier written words as to “Manuel Gonsalves” are deleted and the words “St. Andrews” have been inserted.
This is done at two places where this reference is coming in the FIR. At the cost of repetition, it must be mentioned that there is no explanation from the investigating agency or by the Investigating Officer or the officer who recorded the FIR as to how the
change of name in the route has appeared in the First Information Report. This circumstance is to be viewed in juxtaposition with the defence of the accused that the vehicle had taken the route from Manuel Gonsalves road and then came to Hill Road. Even this is the substantive evidence of DW1 as detailed earlier in paragraph3 of his evidence before the Sessions Court :
“3. I then took the vehicle on Linking Road, then on Gonsalves Road and took the right turn for going to Hill Road. Our vehicle came on Hill Road. Our vehicle proceeded at some distance on hill Road, then the front left tyre of our vehicle burst, thereby our vehicle pulled towards the left side. I tried to turn my steering wheel but it had become hard to turn. I also tried to apply the brakes, but by then the vehicle had climbed the stairs of the Laundry. Our vehicle then stopped.”
So what do we have here? Firstly, the FIR which is the very basis of a criminal investigation is grossly tampered with. This means that strictly speaking, no one knows which road the car came from. Secondly, the Defence Witness 1 the infamous Ashok Singh who turned up 13 years later to claim he was driving, stated in the trial court that he drove on Manuel Gonsalves Road. This evidence is left uncontested in the Trial Court by the Prosecution. So, bottom line which road did the car come from?
What did Salman drink
This problem is totally mind boggling. Do remember that there is prohibition in Maharashtra. No one can enter a place serving alcohol or consume alcohol without a permit. This is an undisputable fact. So, what do hoteliers do? They know most punters have no permits. They serve you alcohol and fudge the bills. This happens even today. Please do bear this in mind.
Our worthy Salman went to the now defunct `Rain’ bar at Juhu with Kamal Khan. There Salman met his brother Sohail and some friends. All the tables were occupied, so Salman, Kamal, Sohail and the friends, all of whom were regulars at Rain, stood at the bar and drank after which Salman and Kamal left and proceeded to the J W Marriot.
The police produced the bills from Rain to try and show that Salman drank at the bar. Much was made in the Press about these bills. In fact, in light of this Judgement, I shudder to think what is going to happen in the case of the lovely Ms Janhavi Gadkar. Our men in Khaki have obtained her bills from the places she drank at. Please see why this is important.
There is one technical matter relating to the bills. Firstly, the bills are generated by a computer. Secondly, the original bill would ordinarily never be with the restaurant but will be with the punter. Therefore it is only a reprint of the bill that will form evidence. Now with respect to computer generated documents – such as restaurant bills - the Evidence Act sets down strict and elaborate rules on how such print outs are to be used as evidence. These provisions to the Evidence Act were inserted in the year 2000. Thus, when this incident i.e. Salman Bhais accident took place in 2002, the Police and prosecution should have been well aware of the mode and manner of presenting computer print outs as evidence. Needless to say, the procedure set out in the Evidence Act was not followed. It was not followed in toto. It was not a question of 9 matters being followed and the 10th being ignored. The process was simply not followed at all. Therefore, the so called bills were inadmissible in evidence. As I have written earlier, I wonder if our worthies in Khaki have obtained Jhanvis bills as mandated by the Evidence Act? As the cliché goes, watch this space.
Assuming, for the moment that the process mandated by the Evidence Act had been followed to tender these bills as evidence, even then, the evidence would be useless and laughable. Now let me reproduce from the Judgement.
Now apart from the above evidence there is
another material brought on record by the prosecution
by way of four bills which are marked as Exhibit50A,
50B, 50C and 50D during recording of evidence before
the Sessions Court. At this juncture it is to be
mentioned that the trial Court had marked these bills
as Exhibits and accepted their evidential value in
order to establish that these bills were for the drinks
and eatables ordered and consumed by the accused
and his friends. In fact these bills were collected
subsequently by the officer and there is substantive
evidence of PW9 on this aspect and this evidence of
PW9 and the factual position as to the accused and
his friends not occupying any tables, render these bills
devoid of any substance. On the contrary, production
of such bills before the trial Court is in fact possibly an
attempt to create documents to suit the case of
prosecution. The reason for this is based on the following material brought on record. Substantive
evidence of PW9 during crossexamination goes to
show that the bills were being generated on a
computer system and the name of the customer is not
generated in the bill. Even also name of a person who
pays the amount also does not reflect in the bill. It is
further the evidence of PW9 that if the customer is
standing near the bar counter then there is no table
number mentioned or reflected in the bill. Table
number is being mentioned only in case of a customer
sitting at a table. Also code number of the captain or
steward is generated in the bill when such captain or
steward serves the order. Further substantive evidence
of PW9 is reproduced hereunder in order to see under
which circumstances said bills were collected by the
In the light of this evidence, the bills which
are Exhibit50A to 50D are carefully examined. Said
respective bills give the table numbers as under : 38,
40, 30 and 18. All the bills give the cover (number of
persons) as one. The bills give the captain code
number respectively as 02, 02, 02 and 48. First two
bills Exhibit50A & 50B are only for food, and third
and fourth bills Exhibit50C and Exhibit50D are for
liquor. The total of these bills is Rs.6376/. The
glaring anomaly is regarding the mentioning of the
table numbers in the bills. Four different table
numbers are given as mentioned above. However, the
cover for which the bill is mentioned as one. So by plain reading of the bills it can be construed that each
bill is for one person only and each bill is for the
person sitting on a particular table number.
Do you now realise the utter madness? Remember what I said, Prohibition. On another note, I hope you realise how utterly useless the entire billing system was at Rain. There was no way the owners of Rain could have performed any analytics on the billing. Was the place doing well, what was the average table revenue, what were people drinking or eating, how did consumption patterns change as the evening progressed. Nothing. With such a meaningless billing system what do you expect. Mind you this is the same situation in all restaurants even today.
With this kind of evidence do you expect a verdict of guilty?
Who was driving
There is a lot of material on this matter. Was it Salman? Was it Ashok Singh? Were there 3 people in the car, were there 4 people? However, one startling passage had me gasping.
After partying at Rain, Salman and Kamal went to the J W Marriot at Juhu. Here they drank some more and exited. The car had been given to the valet to park. As they exited Salman gave a tip of Rs 500/- to the valet at the J W Marriot. On being examined in the Trial Court, this is what the valet stated in his examination and cross examination.
“ I did not see at what time and in what manner the Land Cruzer left the J.W. Marriot Hotel. Kamal Khan sat in the back portion of the car behind Salman Khan. Nobody sat near Kamal Khan on the left side in the back portion of the car.
Police asked me during recording my statement where Kamal Khan sat. I was remembering at the time of giving my statement that on which portion of the back seat Kamal Khan was sitting and he sat behind Salman Khan. Kamal Khan sat in the back portion of the car on the left side.”
By pointing out this admission given by this witness, learned Senior Counsel for the appellant submitted that the seat
arrangement as stated by this witness suggest that the
appellant/accused was sitting on the left side of the front seat i.e. towards the left side of the driver's seat as Kamal Khan was sitting behind him in the back portion on the left side. Even after this material extracted from his cross examination no attempt has been made on behalf of the
prosecution to get clarification for the anomaly created in the answers, one given in the examination inchief and another at the end of the cross examination. Without confronting this witness with the questions in the nature of crossexamination, now it cannot be accepted on behalf of the State as argued
that apparently this witness has deviated from his earlier
statement to the police and has partially supported the
defence. The foundation for appreciating this argument has not been created while recording the evidence of this witness by the prosecution. testimony.
So here we have contrary testimony given by the same witness in the Trial Court. For whatever reason, now lost in the sands of time, no one bothered to correct this. It took a diligent lawyer Amit Desai to point this out. Kudos to him. I mean this in all honesty.
The 305 pages are filled with howlers like this. I have extracted just a few for you.
To end, I urge you to read my list of disclaimers and caveats again. On one level I am proud that the Rule of Law is alive and well in India. I have faith in the higher judiciary. However, the tragedy is that Salman Khan appears to have got away with what is the perfect crime.