Yesterday Salman Khan, beleaguered Bollywood megastar, appeared before the Mumbai sessions court in a grey shirt and black slacks to go on trial for culpable homicide. Though he pled not guilty, if convicted he faces a maximum prison term of ten years.
The actor is on trial for allegedly driving his Toyota Land Cruiser into the American Express bakery in Mumbai’s Bandra area on the night of September 28, 2002, killing one homeless man, 38-year-old Noor Ullah Khan, and seriously injuring three others who were sleeping on the sidewalk.
Khan was previously only on trial for death by negligence – a crime that carried a maximum penalty of two years in prison. He was, in fact, initially charged with culpable homicide, but he successfully challenged those charges.
In February of this year, however, the original charges were reinstated. Khan attempted to challenge the more severe charges again last month, but his petition was shot down by the courts. This is not the first time Khan has faced jail time. In 1998, he was sentenced to five years in prison for killing a black buck, an endangered species of deer, in Rajasthan. He got off the hook after only three days in jail.
Although many have complained about the pace of the trial, which has dragged on for more than a decade, fans shared overwhelming support on Twitter yesterday for the veteran actor with more than 80 Hindi film credits in a career spanning 25 years.
N. Hasan (@tubzhoney) added: "Leave Salman Khan alone you stupid people. Culpable homicide my foot! Easy to make an example of out a celebrity & let the real criminals go."
Yet others pounced on comparisons between Khan and fellow Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, who was convicted on charges of illegal arms possession in March.
Mrs. Chulbul Pandey (@ChhotaRecharge) tweeted: “For all you guys comparing Salman Khan with Sanjay Dutt.. Comparing him to a terrorist? I don't even have words for you. God bless!”
While Dutt still has more than three years left in prison, the verdict for Khan is still out. The actor has been exempted from appearing in court for the trial, which is set to begin on August 19.