Mumbai, April 19: Actor Salman Khan's lawyer Shrikant Shivade on Saturday described his driver Ashok Singh, who owned responsibility for the 2002 accident, as "most truthful and natural witness" in the hit-and-run case.
The defence lawyer pointed out that Singh's testimony shows Salman did not flee from the scene of the accident on September 28, 2002, which left one dead and four others injured outside a bakery in Bandra.
"He is the most truthful and natural witness... In fact, he has supported what the prosecution has been saying and during his cross-examination, the core of his testimony was not questioned," Shivade argued before Additional Sessions Judge D.W. Deshpande in the ongoing final arguments of the retrial of the high-profile case involving Salman.
Shivade pointed out how Singh had testified a mob of around 50-100 people, some armed with rods and stones gathered there after the accident when Salman, his bodyguard Ravindra Patil, singer Kamaal Khan were present.
"What Singh is saying is correct, truthful... there were actaully four people in the vehicle and Singh was driving it," Shivade said, adding that the accident occurred due to a tyre burst and not negligence on the part of the driver.
Dwelling on why it took 13 years for Singh to confess, Shivade said he got the opportunity only now - since a defence witness can be examined only after the prosecution completes its case - and Singh gave his statement at the first opportune moment.
He said the Khan family had three drivers - Ashok Singh, Datta and Altaf - and Singh felt particularly bad that Salman had to encounter the problems, especially when he drives him (Salman) to the court.
Shivade also argued how during the examination-in-chief and cross-examination, Singh had said he had dialed police control No.100 and then went to the Bandra police station.
"There, he was made to sit on the bench and kept waiting... He was interrogated, but his statement was not recorded... Why? The next day Salman was booked for the offence and released on bail," he pointed out.
The defence lawyer urged Judge Deshpande to discard the evidence of Patil, who had lodged the first complaint in the case, and later passed away due to natural causes during the pendency of the trial.
"When police reached the accident site and asked Patil about it, he kept quiet. An FIR was lodged later and subsequently he made a supplementary statement."
He argued that Patil has alleged Salman was intoxicated and driving the case...
"Being a policeman and knowing drunken driving is a serious offence, whey did he not inform police about Salman's role when they first questioned him about it?"
He argued that this "non-disclosure" by Patil could render the subsequent FIR illegal, and in view of the enhanced charge of "culpable homicide not amounting to murder", Salman would be prejudice since Patil is no longer available for cross-examination.
Shivade also contended that there was no similarity between this case and Alistair Pereira hit-and-run case, cited by the prosecution during its final arguments.