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Salman was drunk while driving: Witness
March 16, 2006 21:33 IST
Actor Salman Khan was under the influence of alcohol when he rammed his car into a Mumbai bakery killing one person and injuring four others on September 28, 2002, Ravindra Patil, his former bodyguard and prime witness in the hit-and-run case, told a sessions court Thursday.
Reiterating his statement given to police, Patil told Salman's lawyer Dipesh Mehta during cross-examination that he had cautioned Salman not to drive in a rash manner or else he would meet with an accident but the actor did not pay heed to his advice.
Although Patil had not stated this in the FIR lodged by him after the incident, he had improved his statement eight days later by telling police that the actor was under the influence of alcohol and also that he had cautioned Salman against rash driving.
During cross-examination, the witness agreed with defence lawyer that the improvement made by him in his statement to police was indeed correct.
However, he admitted that a newspaper report quoting him about Salman taking a sharp turn to dodge an electric pole just before the accident was also correct.
The witness denied that he was 'tutored' by police to implicate Salman and also refuted allegations that he had merely signed the improved statement at the instance of police. Following his failure to appear before the court for cross-examination, the court had issued non-bailable warrant against Patil.
Despite the non-bailable warrants, he did not appear before the court on four occasions and was arrested by police from Mahabaleshwar on March 11. Since then he was in custody and was produced before the court today.
Patil's cross-examination concluded today and the matter was adjourned to March 23 when other witnesses are expected to depose. Patil's deposition is considered significant in legal circles as he was accompanying Salman when the actor rammed his car into a bakery killing one person and injuring four on September 28, 2002.
Patil had on last occasion fumbled for words before the trial court when he was confronted with contradictions in his police complaint and interview appearing in a section of the media, a day after the mishap. The witness was earlier confronted with his interview in the Mumbai tabloid Mid-Day, a day after the incident in which he had said that the actor was normal before getting on to the wheel.
The interview also mentioned Patil saying that Salman had told him that the wheel was not turning just before he rammed the car into a bakery after dodging an electric pole. The witness told the defence lawyer that the contents of the interview were correct. However, in the police complaint he had not stated so, the court was told. Patil had also informed the magistrate earlier that he had received anonymous threatening calls asking him not to depose before the court.
The police had booked Salman with culpable homicide not amounting to murder but this charge was dropped by the Supreme Court and he was asked to undergo the trial in the lower court for negligent and rash driving. Salman had earlier paid Rs 20 lakh compensation to the victims on the directives of Bombay High Court.