SALMAN KHAN FOUND GUILTY: IS EVERYONE IS EQUAL BEFORE THE LAW?

In a 2002 hit and run case, Salman Khan was today sentenced to 5 years in jail. The court, based on evidences before it, found he was driving the car, and was drunk and was not carrying his licence.

The survivors of the case do not want him to be punished, and so are millions others, including those from the film industry. Yes, the workers want more money to live on. They want more compensation, beyond the odd 19 lakh that Salman deposited with the Bandra court in 2002. But the court has ruled out so, even if Salman is willing to pay them more for a lesser sentence.

We can easily say this a triumph of justice in the lower courts – given the fact that Puru Raajkumar was let off with fine of Rs. 1 Lakh only, even if he killed 3 and injured 2 in his drunken state – way back in 1993.

Sanjeev Nanda, in the notorious 1999 BMW hit and run case of Delhi, killed 6, but he was imprisoned 2 years only. The Supreme Court added 2 more years of community service in 2012. 2 years of imprisonment were after public outage. He was acquitted and released in 1999 but was forced for a re-trial in 2008.

Another hit and run case that made headlines took place in Mumbai in 2006. Alistair Pereira, coming a family of realtors, killed 7 and injured 8 when his drunken stupor lost every sense and his Toyota Corolla rammed into a group of people. He was sentenced for 3 years only. Supreme Court, while upholding the order, said as the state government had not sought a tougher punishment more than three years, it was unable to do so.

From that measure, Salman has got a harsh punishment of five years – for killing 1, injuring 3 and crippling 1. And he is ready to give more compensation.

Though the Bombay High Court has granted him interim bail for 2 days, as the complete order copy is yet to be given, the trial court had not any option.

In fact, the verdict given today is a balanced one after he was slapped again with the culpable homicide charge that attracted a punishment of up to 10 years. A trial court judge has limited options in case of serious charges and when a case involves a celebrity like Salman Khan, in becomes talk of the town, including the higher courts and to judge wants scathing remarks on his verdict from a higher court judge. The case was in limelight anyway and it got some undue negative social media publicity when Salman’s driver Ashok Singh tried to claim the blame on him (March 30, 2015). Ashok Singh had made similar attempt in 2007.

Sessions court had to sentence Salman. Supreme Court had observed in the past that the accused could not get benefit of procedural lapses. So even if the witnesses turned hostile, Salman could not prove that he was not driving, that he was not without license, and that he was not drunk. The Sessions’ court judge found him guilty of all charges and chose to sentence him for 5 years.

It is harsh given by the cases above. It is not harsh given by the fact that everyone is equal before the law.

Higher courts’ response is to be seen in this case now with a balanced judgment by the Sessions court.

The Bombay High Court would hear Salman’s bail plea on Friday once the order is in. In case of Sanjeev Nanda, the final Supreme Court order came after 13 years. Salman’s hit and run case has already dragged for 13 years. Hopefully it will not be dragged on for many more months and the Bombay High Court will hear the appeal in a time-bound manner.

And obviously, we would keep on asking ‘if everyone is equal before the law!’

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

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