Mumbai, Aug. 21: The prosecution in Salman Khan’s 2002 hit-and-run trial today told the court that not just original statements of witnesses but even the case diaries were “untraceable”.
The admission, which came less than a month after assertions that the case diaries were not lost, prompted the annoyed judge to order police to locate and produce the originals by September 12.
D.W. Deshpande, the sessions judge, also summoned Kishan Shengal, the investigating officer who has since retired, to be present at the next hearing to explain the disappearance.
At the last hearing on July 25, the prosecution had informed the court that 56 of the 63 original statements of witnesses were untraceable, but added their true copies were available.
Today, Salman’s lawyer Shrikant Shivade contended that it was a sensitive case involving a serious charge, for which original documents were required.
But the prosecution argued that the trial could go on with true copies — exact copies of a legal document, attested by a notary — claiming it was an established practice in Mumbai courts.
Salman initially faced trial for “causing death by (a) rash and negligent act” under Section 304A of the IPC — punishable with two years in jail.
The case was transferred to the sessions court in January 2013 when the previous magistrate deemed graver charges of “culpable homicide not amounting to murder” under Section 304(ii) were made out against the actor. This is punishable with up to 10 years in jail.
The case was transferred as only sessions courts can hear cases with the graver charge. In December last year, the sessions court agreed with Salman’s lawyers that the witnesses needed to be freshly examined in the context of the new charges, and ordered a retrial.
The original documents were kept in the magistrate’s court. The police claimed that only seven of the 63 original witnesses’ statements could be traced after the case was transferred.
“Under the Indian Evidence Act, the original evidence is very important. So, the missing original case diaries can undermine the trial,” said lawyer Y.P. Singh, who along with wife Abha had highlighted the delay in the case.