[BBC] – Bollywood star Salman Khan has been freed on bail, hours after being convicted of culpable homicide in a 2002 Mumbai hit-and-run case.
The Bombay high court gave him interim bail for two days after his lawyers filed an appeal against his sentence. The appeal will be heard on Friday.
On Wednesday morning, a sessions court sentenced the actor to five years in prison for killing a homeless man. The man was among five people who were run over in the incident.
Khan had said his driver was behind the wheel, but the judge said the actor was driving the car and was under the influence of alcohol at the time.
The guilty verdict is being seen as a huge setback for Khan, although the jail term could have been as long as 10 years. Following the verdict, Khan remained in the trial court while his lawyers went to the high court with the appeal. The actor is now expected to go home, at least for the next two days.
Khan is one of Bollywood’s biggest stars, appearing in more than 80 Hindi-language films. Several of his films, including Dabangg, Ready, Bodyguard, Ek Tha Tiger, Maine Pyar Kiya and Hum Aap Ke Hain Kaun, have been huge commercial hits. On Wednesday morning, as the actor drove to court with his family and friends, fans prayed for the actor’s acquittal.
But Judge DW Deshpande found him guilty on the charge of culpable homicide.
“You were driving the car; you were under the influence of alcohol,” he told the actor as soon as the court proceedings began.
The 49-year-old actor was also found guilty of negligent driving and causing grievous harm to the victims and given separate terms for each offence, but defence lawyers said all the sentences would run concurrently.
Within minutes of entering the courtroom, the judge informed Khan that he was guilty.
After that, for the next three hours as the lawyers from both the sides presented their arguments over his punishment, Khan, who was dressed in a white shirt, remained calm and composed.
His family and friends inside the court were hoping that he would get a jail term of three years or less. But when the judge sentenced him to five years in prison, Khan’s expression changed immediately.
And even as his sisters tried to comfort him, the actor looked visibly upset. Several of his Bollywood colleagues spoke out in his support and expressed their sympathies. Actress Hema Malini said she was praying for him.
If the actor is put behind bars, it will affect several big-ticket film projects he is involved in at the moment. Meanwhile, one of the victims of the hit-and-run incident has said getting compensation is more important to him than Khan’s conviction.
However, Abdullah Rauf Shaikh told Outlook magazine: “I have no hard feelings for him (Salman). I still watch his movies.”
The case has gripped Bollywood and India for years. Late on the night of 28 September 2002, Khan’s Toyota Land Cruiser hit the American Express bakery in the Bandra area of Mumbai, authorities say. The vehicle ran over five people sleeping on the street, killing 38-year-old Noor Ullah Khan and seriously injuring three others. Another person received minor injuries.
The prosecution alleged that Khan had been driving the car while drunk. Giving evidence in March., Khan had denied he was drunk or that he was driving the vehicle.
But many witnesses disagreed. A constable attached to Khan’s security detail said in a statement to the police that the “drunk” actor had lost control of the car. The policeman died in 2007 of tuberculosis. In April, Khan’s driver told the court that he had crashed the car after a tyre burst but the court did not accept that version.