Mumbai, Oct. 7: Salman Khan is in police lock-up and will have to spend at least three more days there.
After a huge public outcry over the police letting the actor — who had killed one person and injured four while driving drunk on September 28 — off on a bail of Rs 950, the prosecution decided to charge Salman under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code.
This means Salman’s offence will be treated as culpable homicide not amounting to murder which is non-bailable and punishable with 10 years’ imprisonment.
Thirty-seven-year-old Salman was arrested today after he surrendered and was remanded in police custody till Thursday.
In deference to the public anger and acknowledging that the police may have made a mistake by allowing Salman to walk off on a bail of Rs 950, advocate-general Goolam Vahanvati said the actor’s recklessness called for the more severe Section 304.
He said the “message should go to the masses that influential people can’t get away with such crimes. This has to be made an example”.
The actor has also been directed to pay an interim compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the family of the dead person, Rs 3 lakh to two persons who were seriously injured and Rs 1.5 lakh to two others with simple injuries.
They were sleeping on the pavement when the Toyota Land Cruiser Salman was driving went over them. Put together, the interim compensation works out to Rs 14.5 lakh.
The court of metropolitan magistrate S. Shisode, however, said payment of interim compensation should not be seen as an admission of guilt.
Salman has been advised not to meet the victims or send his emissaries as the court feels there is a possibility of the evidence being tampered with.
Vahanvati noted that Salman — so far known for his midnight banging on actress Aishwarya Rai’s door or barging in to her sets — had to be arrested because he was driving without a licence and was drunk.
Rejecting the bail plea, the metropolitan magistrate said the court would decide on October 10 if Section 304 was applicable to the actor. His bail plea will also come up for hearing the same day.
Salman was in the Bandra lock-up for more than two hours before he was produced in court. Sources said that during interrogation the actor was “cooperative and quiet”.
The developments follow a public interest litigation that questioned why the actor was booked under Section 304A and not 304.
The PIL filed by two journalists and a women’s activist called for a review of the Motor Vehicle Act and contended that compensation to victims should be calculated according to the paying capacity of the accused and not the earning capacity of the victim.
Nikhil Wagle, one of the petitioners, said the decision to book Salman under 304 was a “small but important victory” for the people.
“Everyone is fed up with obsolete laws and the way the powerful make a mockery of them. People have been getting away with too much. It is a victory of the underdog,” he said.
In an aside, the judges said that the question of reviewing the Act would be heard on November 27.
The court would then look at the “applicability of laws in hit-and-run cases and determine whether special rules can be framed by the state and Central governments in cases of driving under the influence of liquor”.
Maharashtra deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal said: “We have already sought the advice of the state’s legal department on modification to the Act and told the Central government about the need for changes and also for harsher punishment against those involved in reckless driving.”
At a news conference, which appeared to have been called to claim credit for bringing the mighty to justice, Bhujbal said: “We were keen to book him (Salman) under Section 304.”