A witness in the 2002 hit-and-run case involving Salman Khan on Tuesday retracted his police statement in a court, saying he had not said that the actor had got down from the driver's seat of his vehicle and ran away after the accident occurred in suburban Bandra.
“My statement recorded by police that I saw Salman coming out from the driver's seat and running away from the spot is incorrect," the witness, Sachin Kadam, a security guard of NeelSagar Hotel, told Judge D W Deshpande.
Earlier, the witness had told police in a statement that he had seen the actor getting down from the driver's seat of his car and going away from the scene of the mishap.
Kadam said he had only told the police that a big car came and rammed into the shutter of a shop.
Kadam was on Tuesday confronted with his police statement but he went back on his own words saying he had not told the police about this.
However, the witness was unable to say why the police had recorded a "false version" in his statement.
Public prosecutor Jagannath Kenjralkar told the court that Kadam should be declared as a hostile witness as he had not supported the prosecution. However, the court has yet to pass order on this plea.
During cross-examination, the witness told Salman's lawyer Srikant Shivade that he had not seen the accident as he was on duty on that day at the gate of the restaurant.
"I heard a loud noise and only then I went there to see that a car had rammed into a shop," he said.
NeelSagar Hotel, where he works, is just opposite to the bakery and laundry where Salman's car had met with an accident on September 28, 2002, in which one person was killed and four others injured.
Another witness, Mohammed Shaikh, who was one of those injured in the mishap, however, supported the prosecution's case saying he had seen Salman standing at the accident spot after he was rescued from underneath the car by people.
"I saw Salman after I was rescued. There were two more people but I did not recognise them. It was a big white car," said the witness.
Shaikh said he was sleeping with Narullah and others outside a bakery shop when the car ran over them and hit the shutter. He was admitted to Bhabha hospital with a fractured leg and over there he learnt that Narullah had died in the mishap.
However, during cross-examination, the witness said that he did not see Salman offering help in the rescue work.
"I was underneath the car for 10 to 15 minutes and could not see who was around us," said Shaikh.
To a question whether he saw Salman moving the car with the help of others after the accident, the witness replied, "I do not know."
"Police came and took away the car but I cannot say how the vehicle was taken away by them. Till then, Narullah and I were underneath the car and shouting at the top of our voices for help," Shaikh said.
The witness further said that taxi drivers and bakery workers, who had rescued them, were screaming that the accident had been "done by Salman".
Shaikh said he had informed police that Salman had met with an accident. "But I cannot say why this has not been recorded by police in my statement," the witness said.
Salman was present in the court. His sister Alvira and bodyguard also accompanied him. A battery of lawyers represented the actor but the cross-examination was done by noted lawyer Shrikant Shivade.
On December 5 last year, the court had ordered a fresh trial on the ground that the witnesses had not been examined in the context of aggravated charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, which was invoked against the actor midway through the case.
The charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder attracts a 10-year sentence. The actor had earlier been tried by a magistrate for a lesser offence of causing death by negligence, which entailed an imprisonment of two years.
The case, dragging on for over a decade, had taken a twist earlier this year when the magistrate, after examining 17 witnesses, held that the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder was made out against Salman and referred the matter to a sessions court, as cases under this offence are tried by a higher court.
Image: Salman Khan is escorted by police to a court in Mumbai on October 14, 2002 Photograph: Roy Madhur/Reuters