India

Salman Khan: Bollywood actor cleared over hit-and-run

Salman Khan Image copyright AFP
Image caption Thursday's ruling is a huge relief for Salman Khan

The high court in the Indian city of Mumbai has overturned Bollywood star Salman Khan's conviction for a 2002 hit-and-run case.

In May, a lower court convicted him of culpable homicide and sentenced him to five years in jail for driving over and killing a man sleeping on a pavement.

But the appeals judge ruled there was not enough evidence.

Khan is one of Bollywood's biggest stars, appearing in more than 80 Hindi films, and has a huge fan following.

It was only when the judge insisted that Salman Khan must be present before the verdict was read out, that the actor hurried to the court in south Mumbai on Thursday, the BBC's Yogita Limaye reports from Mumbai.

"The appeal is allowed and the decision of the trial court is quashed and set aside. Salman Khan is acquitted of all charges," news agency AFP quoted the Bombay high court judge Anil Ramchandra Joshi as saying.

The prosecution "failed to establish [the charges] beyond reasonable doubt", the judge added.

The actor, surrounded by his family members, broke down after hearing the verdict, the Press Trust of India reported.

He tweeted his thanks to his supporters:

Image copyright Twitter

Case timeline

September 2002: Salman Khan's car runs over five people sleeping on a Mumbai street, killing a homeless man and injuring four others

October 2002: Khan charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder - arrested but granted bail

May 2003: Court rejects his plea to drop culpable homicide charge

June 2003: Bombay high court drops culpable homicide charge; Khan is then tried for rash and negligent driving

October 2007: Prime witness, a constable who served in his security detail, dies

March 2015: Khan tells the court he was not drunk and his driver was behind the wheel

May 2015: Khan found guilty, given a five-year jail sentence

Thursday's verdict is the latest twist in a case that began 13 years ago when Khan's Toyota Land Cruiser car veered off the road, killing one man and seriously injuring four others.

During his trial in the lower court, Khan had argued that his driver had been behind the wheel, but the judge said it was the actor who had been driving under the influence of alcohol.

Now the high court has said that key evidence - including testimony from a policeman who has since died - was not reliable.

The prosecution is likely to challenge the verdict, reports say.

Khan's clothes stylist, Ashley Robello, met him hours after the Bollywood star was cleared by the high court.

Speaking to the BBC's World Have Your Say programme, Mr Robello said there was a "sense of relief for him [Khan], his family, his sister" who fought with him for 13 years.

'Respect the judiciary'

Meanwhile, #SalmanVerdict has been a top trending topic on Twitter as thousands have expressed their opinion on the ruling.

Some have supported the actor, saying the court's order should be respected:

Image copyright Twitter
Image copyright Twitter

But others seemed unhappy with the verdict:

Image copyright Twitter
Image copyright Twitter

And some others resorted to humour to comment on the case:

Image copyright Twitter
Image copyright Twitter

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