Bollywood actor sentenced to five years
MUMBAI, India (AP) – One of India’s biggest and most popular movie stars, Salman Khan, was sentenced to five years in jail Wednesday on charges of running over five men sleeping on a sidewalk and killing one in a hit-and-run case that has dragged for more than 12 years.
Judge D. W. Deshpande of the Mumbai Sessions court earlier Wednesday convicted Khan of culpable homicide.
The 49-year-old actor was also given separate terms for negligent driving and causing grievous harm to the victims, but all the sentences will run concurrently, defence lawyers said.
The lawyers argued for a more lenient sentence, citing Khan’s “medical condition”. No details were immediately available on the nature of Khan’s medical complaint.
Within hours of the guilty verdict, Khan’s lawyers filed an appeal for bail in the Mumbai High Court, his lawyer, Srikant Shivade, said.
A decision on the bail application was likely later Wednesday, Shivade said. If bail is approved, Khan will not have to go to jail while he appeals the verdict, he said.
Most Indian prisons are overcrowded and have poor sanitation and health care. However, a high-profile prisoner such as Khan is unlikely to be kept with hardened criminals and would probably be accommodated with white-collar offenders.
The prosecution told the court that Khan was drunk when he rammed his SUV into a group of homeless people sleeping on a sidewalk in September 2002.
Khan has all along denied that he was behind the wheel. In April, his driver Ashok Singh told the court that he was driving and lost control of the SUV when one of its tires burst.
But Judge Deshpande dismissed the actor’s claim and accused him of driving the car under the influence of alcohol and then fleeing.
Khan also faces trial in a separate case for allegedly killing two rare deer in a western India wildlife preserve 16 years ago.
He is one of Bollywood’s most popular stars, appearing in more than 90 Hindi-language films in his 27-year career.