New Delhi (dpa) – Bollywood star Salman Khan was acquitted Thursday in a 2002 hit-and-run case, overturning his earlier conviction, as a court ruled the evidence was not conclusive.
Khan, 49, was sentenced to five years’ jail by a lower court in May on a conviction of culpable homicide for driving over and killing a man sleeping on a city pavement.
He appealed to the Bombay High Court, which ordered his sentence be suspended, and Thursday reversed the conviction.
“On basis of evidences produced by the prosecution, the appellant cannot be convicted, no matter how differently the common man thinks,” said Judge AR Joshi, who heard the appeal, according to broadcaster NDTV.
The court said the prosecution had failed to establish that the actor was driving and was drunk at the time of the accident.
It questioned the credibility of Khan’s bodyguard, Ravindra Patil, a key prosecution witness, who had said the actor was driving drunk, and who died in 2007.
Khan’s Toyota Land Cruiser rammed into a bakery in Mumbai in September 2002, killing one homeless person and injuring four others who were sleeping outside.
One of the Indian film industry’s most popular stars, Khan, was present in the courtroom when Thursday’s judgement was delivered.
Khan has repeatedly denied that he was driving the vehicle. His lawyers argue that the family’s driver Ashok Singh was behind the wheel.
Singh was cross-examined in the lower court but his testimony was disregarded by that judge, a move which Thursday’s ruling said was an error.
The prosecution can appeal against the latest verdict in the Supreme Court.