In the sudden twist in a tale of famous celebrity actor Salman Khan HIT-N-RUN Case the actor’s driver Ashok Singh appeared before the court for the first time after 13 years and owned up the responsibility of the accident. He said he kept silent all these years as he did not know what to do due to lack of knowledge of court procedures. Although he denied prosecution’s suggestion that he was paid huge sum to own up the crime. He also denied lying on oath to the court.
At no point during the investigation or trial till now had it been claimed that Ashok Singh was driving the car on the night of the accident in September 2002. It was only last week when Salman Khan stood in the box to answer the judge’s questions that he said for the first time that his driver Ashok Singh was driving the car. “Till then, his name had never appeared in the case, barring a small mention in the beginning of the investigation that Ashok Singh used to drive Salman’s car in the day. At no point in time had the actor claimed till last week that Ashok was driving the car,” special public prosecutor Pradeep Gharat said outside the court room.
[pullquote-right]Driver Ashok Singh denies lying under oath after the prosecution suggested that he had been paid a huge sum of money to own up the crime.[/pullquote-right]
In the court, during the two-hour proceedings, the driver claimed that he tried to inform the police soon after the accident took place, but they refused to record his statement. “I felt bad that the accident happened when I was driving the vehicle and Salman Khan had to face the consequences,” he told Judge D W Deshpande. When asked during his cross examination as to why he had not approached the court earlier in this 13-year old case, he said he had no knowledge of the court procedures.
While narrating the incident, he said he was driving the car when the front left tyre got burst. “I tried turning the steering, but it became hard. I tried applying brakes, but the vehicle had climbed the stairs of the laundry,” he told the court. He said he was at the accident spot for over five minutes, and later he went to Bandra police station to inform about the accident. He said that the officials at Bandra police station told him that a police team had already left for spot. He also claimed that he waited at the police station till 4:30 am the next morning, but the police refused to register his statement. “I could not say anything to the media (which had gathered outside Bandra police station the next morning). As I was inside the police station, “how could I say something against the police?” he asked.
Special Public Prosecutor Pradeep Gharat called Ashok Singh a “dummy witness” and further said that Salman’s defence was that the accident “was an act of God. It was a mechanical defect and not the fault of the driver”. Maintaining that during the incident, three people were travelling in the car, Gharat said they were singer Kamal Khan, Salman’s bodyguard Ravindra Patil and the actor himself. “If attempt is to show that they were not the only three people travelling, but one more was there, not even a remote suggestion was made that this was defence witness Ashok Singh (driver). This defence has been developed only at the time of producing him,” he said. The final arguments by Gharat will continue in court on April 6.
In the early hours of September 28, 2002, Salman’s white Toyota Land Cruiser rammed into a shop in suburban Bandra, near his sea-front residence in Galaxy Apartments, killing one person and injuring four others, who were sleeping outside on the pavement. According to Ashok Singh (the driver of actor), he was driving the car during the night of the accident, which according to him had occurred due to bursting of a tyre. The prosecution said the theory of the tyre bursting was incorrect and illogical. “Ashok Singh had stated that the road was smooth to drive so there was no possibility of bursting of tyre as suggested by him. The car tyre may burst if it comes in contact with a sharp edge. But during the accident, it only hit the stairs it climbed,” he added.
Gharat also said that the theory of speeding, leaving road and climbing the footpath is not acceptable as there was an indicator panel facility provided in the car. “The driver of the said vehicle, who is actor Salman Khan, is supposed to see and keep an eye on the indicator. If there is any defect in any part of the car it shows in the indicator panel. If one fails to observe the indicator, it is an act of rashness and negligence. The accused particularly had knowledge of which place he was passing and what failure on his part would result in,” said Gharat.
Gharat further said Salman’s statement recorded under Section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code (power to examine the accused) should not be considered as evidence. “Salman Khan said he did not want to be examined as a witness and therefore did not face any cross-examination,” he added.