The curious case of Salman Khan

Salman

13 long years down the line, we have a verdict in the 2002-hit-and-run case. But it’s unlikely to be the last one. Nevertheless, at least we have one after a Mumbai sessions court sentenced actor Salman Khan to five years in jail, convicting him under a host of charges, chief among them, culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

Expectedly, news and social media is abuzz with the Salman verdict, with Bollywood and horde of Salman fans expressing their anger at the verdict, while most ordinary netizens are urging all to leave the fanfare aside and respect the court’s verdict.

Given the dramatic twists and turns in the case recently, perhaps, this verdict has come as a surprise with many observers reckoning that the actor could go scot-free. But justice Deshpande would have none of the nonsense as he sentenced the actor to five years in jail.

Before I express my views, I must laud Rajdeep Sardesai and Headlines Today for their very objective coverage. They haven’t petered to any fanfare but neither have they initiated a vicious hunt against the actor. They have explored all angles to the story.

It would be impossible to explain in one sentence what led to this verdict. But I guess, Salman’s lawyers committed the biggest harakiri at the 11th hour by bringing in Salman’s driver Ashok Singh as one who was driving the car.

The immediate question that begs is where was Mr.Singh for 12 years?

If he indeed was the culprit then why didn’t he own up responsibility earlier?

Clearly, justice Deshpande didn’t buy this tale. Ashok Singh will get his wish though, as he will go to jail on charges of perjury.

Can Salman’s lawyers explain the rationale behind their theory that perhaps, the lone dead victim must have died by an object falling off from a crane that was called to lift the actor’s damaged Land Cruiser.

Sacrificing Ashok Singh is fine, but who’ll hold Salman’s poor lawyers accountable? Shouldn’t they be stripped of their licences?

Also, no amount of kite flying with Prime Minister Narendra Modi was going to do you any favours, Mr.Khan.

One of the arguments that perhaps went against the actor is how he deliberately delayed the trial. Witnesses turning hostile, actor falling sick, judges changing, Salman using political strings. (Luckily, former MLA Baba Siddiqui is no longer in power) The actor must have thought that the constant delay would result in the issue dying a natural death. Unfortunately, Salman lost sight of the fact the clamor for justice has never been louder in India before. Political bigwigs, businessmen have been brought to justice. At 50, Salman will have a tough task to complete this sentence, if he doesn’t get a reprieve from the higher courts.

In most such cases, an amicable solution is worked out, whereby the accused pays a heavy compensation to avoid jail. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option here, for had the court or the media got a whiff of such attempts to influence justice, Salman would have long been cooling his heels in jail.

I’m not surprised wee bit with the victims and their kins not wanting any jail term for Salman Khan. Wonder though, if the actor in question was a non Muslim would the family then not wanted any punishment?

The lone deceased’s wife and son have not only demanded no punishment for the actor, but the son has gone on to say that they rather get compensated through a job and 10 lakh rupees.

It would be naive to say that these people are trying to cash in on their loss. They are helplessly expressing their honest views. The tragedy of a nation like India is that personal loss can actually be a blessing in disguise for the kins. Salman, being a great ‘human being’ would be expected to offer them great compensation, but the question is would he do now that he’s been sentenced to jail? If he truly is a great human being, then the actor should immediately compensate the victims, irrespective of the fact whether he serves the sentence or not.

Whilst I respect the views of the victims, why is no one asking for justice for late cop Ravindra Patil, who first lost his job, then family and eventually his life. What was his crime? That he was the one who lodged an FIR against Salman Khan and stood by his statement till his death.

For those uninitiated, Ravindra Patil was serving as bodyguard to the actor and he was with him in the car when the accident happened. Salman’s lawyers disputed this claim saying that Patil was asleep. Well, sadly, Patil didn’t live long to contest this. Another man though who is said to have stood by his claim is singer Kamaal Khan. He chose to speak the truth, even at the cost of his career in India.
I expect Bollywood and millions of Salman’s fans to express shock at the verdict, but I’m appalled at the manner in which some of my brethren from the media is reacting to the verdict. I respect that Salman is a generous human being, one who has changed people’s lives, but should we as journalists lose our objectivity?

Stories of how Alistair Pereira, who killed 7, while Sanjeev Nanda, who killed 6, have got away with limited jail sentences, have been used as precedence by Salman’s lawyers and some media to ensure minimum punishment for the actor. But like Kiran Bedi said on Headlines Today, you can’t be comparing between cases. Agreed that true justice hasn’t been done in those cases, but if the media was so hell bent on punishing Alistair Pereira and Sanjeev Nanda, then why go soft on Salman, just because he is a superstar?

The Salman verdict is an opportunity for the media to demand reopening of the cases against Alistair Pereira and Sanjeev Nanda as they deserve more time in jail.

Journalists, in particularly from entertainment, should keep aside their fanfare and report objectively. I’m appalled to know that the some journalists are going to run a story on how many millions Salman has donated for charity.

We ought to respect the law, as none is above it. This is not the last verdict in the Salman Khan case. There’s likelihood of the actor getting the sentence reduced or squashed altogether. We ought to respect the verdict now, and what transpires in the coming days. One’s thing’s sure though, for Salman, ‘the BUCK simply doesn’t stop here. Over to you, Rajasthan!

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