Actor Salman Khan's fresh trial in the 2002 hit-and-run case today looked set for further delay with the police informing the court that after most original statements of witnesses even the case diaries have gone missing. The court has now directed the police to locate the documents by September 12.
Police informed the court for the first time today that the case diaries have disappeared. Earlier, they had told the court that only 7 of the 63 original statements of witnesses were traceable, although true copies were available.
Salman's lawyer Srikant Shivade contended that as per law the original papers were required to be produced before the court for the trial to proceed, while the prosecution argued that in accordance with the established practice in Mumbai courts the trial can go on with the true copies.
Sessions judge D W Deshpande asked police to inform the court about their line of at the next hearing. It would then verify what documents the prosecution and defence have and whether it will be appropriate to proceed with the trial on the basis of those.
According to police, the original papers were kept in a magistrate's court where the trial was held since 2001. However, most of the original statements of the witnesses and case diaries could not be traced after the trial was shifted to the sessions court. The case, dragging on for over a decade, had taken a twist 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 that offence can only be tried by a higher court.
On December 5 last year, the sessions court had ordered a fresh trial on the ground that witnesses had not been examined in the context of aggravated charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder which was invoked against the actor by the magisterial court midway through the hearing. The charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder attracts a 10-year sentence, while the actor had earlier been tried by a magistrate for a lesser offence of causing death by negligence, which entails imprisonment of two years.
The judge also asked the then investigating officer Kishan Shengal, who has retired from service, to appear in person on September 12 to throw light on the missing papers.
Salman's counsel said since the case was very sensitive and involved a serious offence, the original documents needed to be placed before the court as per the law and true copies would not suffice. The court had on July 25 asked the Bandra police to produce, apart from the missing statements, the case diaries today, but was informed even those have disappeared.
On September 28, 2002, the actor's car had run over a group of people sleeping on the pavement outside a bakery, killing one and injuring four.