An Indian court has sentenced Bollywood star Salman Khan to five years in jail for killing a homeless man in a 2002 hit-and-run driving incident in Mumbai.
The man was among five people who were run over in the incident. The actor was charged with culpable homicide.
Bollywood superstar Salman Khan is one of India’s most bankable stars and if the sentence is upheld, trade analysts believe the Indian film industry could lose more than $31 million.
Indian judge DW Deshpande found Khan guilty of culpable homicide and other charges for driving his Land Cruiser into a group of homeless men sleeping rough in suburban Mumbai, rejecting the actor’s claim his driver was to blame.
“After going through the arguments put forth by both sides, I have come to the conclusion that five years is proper punishment,” Deshpande told the packed sessions court.
But the actor will likely appeal to the Mumbai High Court now. Immediately after the sentencing Wednesday, his lawyers said he had a heart ailment, and said they would seek bail.
The hit and run case that gripped Bollywood and its fans
The case has gripped Bollywood and India for years. The verdict had been keenly awaited both by his legions of fans and Bollywood studios, who stand to lose millions of dollars if they have to cancel filming for movies for which he has been signed up.
Late on the night of 28 September 2002, Khan’s Toyota Land Cruiser hit the American Express bakery in the Bandra area of Mumbai, authorities say.
The vehicle ran over five people sleeping on the street, killing 38-year-old Noor Ullah Khan and seriously injuring three others. Another person received minor injuries.
The prosecution alleged that Khan had been driving the car while drunk, both of which charges the actor denied in court in March.
But many witnesses disagreed.
Khan has always denied being behind the wheel, but the conviction and sentence are likely to hit the career of one of the Indian movie industry’s biggest box-office stars.
The 49-year-old looked stunned and tired as the sentence was read out, sinking into his chair as his family gathered around.
Justice after 13 years?
September 2002: Salman Khan’s car runs over five people sleeping on a Mumbai street, killing a homeless man and injuring four others
October 2002: Khan charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder – arrested but granted bail
May 2003: Court rejects his plea to drop culpable homicide charge
June 2003: Bombay high court drops culpable homicide charge; actor is then tried for rash and negligent driving
October 2007: Prime witness, a constable who served in his security detail, dies
March 2015: Khan tells the court he was not drunk and his driver was behind the wheel
May 2015: Khan found guilty, sent to jail for five years