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Salman Khan verdict

Bollywood superstar Salman Khan’s 13-year roller coaster ride has finally come to an end, notwithstanding a challenge in the apex court. Back in 2002, superstar Salman Khan was accused of culpable homicide. A trial court had earlier this year pronounced Salman Khan guilty of running over four people, who were sleeping on a Bandra footpath. The Bombay High Court though has reversed the verdict. He ordered for Salman Khan’s acquittal as the prosecution could not prove all the charges against the 49-year-old actor. With the judgment delivered, the Maharashtra government will now decide on its future course of action. The Bandra Police station too has been instructed to return Khan’s passport upon the completion of all verification.

Justice Joshi, while pronouncing his verdict, stated that most of the evidence presented by the prosecution against Salman Khan is only circumstantial. He further added that suspicion on any grounds is not enough to convict someone. He also stated that opinions, in general, cannot be used to pass judgement. The actor could only be proven guilty and convicted based on the material evidence available. Justice Joshi further ridiculed the Sessions Court’s verdict, stating that the “appreciation of evidence by the trial court was not proper as per principles of criminal jurisprudence”. Justice Joshi also harped on the  faulty manner of investigation. According to the judge, the prosecution had failed to establish a procedure of connecting the chain of evidence with regard to collecting biological evidence 

Earlier this week, the Bombay High Court had opened its window for hope for the superstar. The verdict was predictable as soon as the High Court had announced that all the evidence brought forth by the prosecution against the actor were circumstantial at best. The judge also stated that there was no conclusive evidence of Salman Khan driving the SUV under the influence of alcohol. The judge had also pronounced that Salman’s bodyguard Ravindra Patil, whose testimony was crucial to the prosecution’s case, was a “wholly unreliable” witness. Patil, who died in 2007, was also a complainant in the case. His deposition was recorded before the magistrate court and it was primarily on the basis of his statement the court had ordered to apply the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. However, he died before the charge was applied. The judiciary has accepted Salman Khan’s innocence. 

Meanwhile, Bollywood has celebrated this verdict. The stated logic from the film industry goes something like this: There are thousands of crores riding on Salman Khan’s movies. There will be hundreds of people soon out of work because of his conviction. What about their lives and families? This is the ethically grey paradox of Salman Khan which has people from inside the film industry celebrating his acquittal, whereas those from civil society who pursued the case with such vigour are perhaps aghast. The case, both the legal one and the metaphorical one is a curious one indeed. What is perhaps worse is that there are next of kin of the deceased, whose 13-year wait, almost a life sentence under the Indian Penal Code, for justice just grew a little longer. For them, some could argue, it’s perhaps justice denied.
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