Relief to Salman as court wont ask for driving licence

Mumbai:In a relief to actor Salman Khan, a sessions court today ruled that it cannot ask him to produce his driving licence at this stage of the trial and he can furnish it at an appropriate stage, if he so desired.

Judge D W Deshpande, while rejecting prosecution’s plea asking Salman to produce his driving licence, held that its application was not maintainable under the provisions of Indian Evidence Act.

According to prosecution, Khan was not holding a licence in 2002 when his car had rammed a roadside bakery killing one person and injuring four others sleeping on the pavement outside. Khan had procured licence only in 2004, two years after the accident, the court was told.

The judge said since Khan had not taken a stand that he was in possession of a driving licence in 2002 there was no need to ask him to produce the document.

Had Salman taken a stand that he had a licence at the relevant time then the prosecution could have moved an application under section 66 of Indian Evidence Act by giving notice to him to produce it, Deshpande said.

“At this stage, the evidence is nearly over and hence the court cannot give a direction for producing the document,” he said.

The court had heard the arguments of both the sides on February 27 and reserved its order for today.

Prosecutor Pradeep Gharat argued that Salman did not possess a licence at the time of the accident. He had obtained a driving licence only in 2004, as per the record available with the Regional Transport Office.

Driving a vehicle without holding a licence is an offence under the Motor Vehicles Act, the prosecutor said.

The actor has denied that he was driving the car at the time of the accident.

His lawyer Srikant Shivade said the prosecution’s application violated the fundamental right against exploitation enshrined in the Constitution as it asked the accused to produce documents incriminating him. He argued that the prosecution should prove its case that Khan was not holding a driving licence without asking him to produce it.

A Regional Transport Officer had earlier deposed in the court saying that Khan did not possess a driving licence when the accident took place in 2002. He also produced records to show that Khan had obtained licence only in 2004, two years after the mishap.

Meanwhile, the court has put off till March 7 the hearing of arguments by Salman’s lawyer on another application filed by the prosecution seeking to rely upon evidence of two crucial witnesses recorded by a magistrate, who had earlier conducted the trial.

These witnesses are Ravindra Patil, Salman’s police bodyguard, who passed away during the trial and the doctor who conducted autopsy on the deceased and is now settled in the US. Since both are now not available to appear before the court, the prosecution wants the judge to rely on their statements recorded by magistrate.

Patil had told the magistrate that on the fateful day he had warned Khan against driving rashly or else he would meet with an accident. He had also alleged that the actor was under the influence of liquor, a charge denied by Salman.

The the trial in the case, which dragged on for over a decade, had taken a twist when a city magistrate after examining 17 witnesses held that the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder was made out against the 49-year-old actor and referred it to the sessions court.

The charge of culpable homicide is punishable with imprisonment that may extend to 10 years, while the earlier charge of causing death by negligence entails a jail term of up to two years.