Salman Khan: Bollywood star faces homicide charge

image copyrightAFP
image captionSalman Khan is hugely popular and successful in Bollywood

An Indian court has ruled that Bollywood superstar Salman Khan should face a charge of culpable homicide for a hit-and-run incident 10 years ago.

In September 2002, he allegedly drove his car into a bakery in Mumbai city, killing a street sleeper.

The actor is currently being tried for the lesser offence of "death caused by negligence". He could face 10 years in prison for the more serious charge.

He denies the charges and has said he will challenge the latest order.

Khan is one of Bollywood's biggest stars and has starred in more than 80 Hindi films, including Dabangg, Ready, Bodyguard, Ek Tha Tiger, Maine Pyar Kiya and Hum Aap Ke Hain Kaun.

Late on the night of 28 September 2002, Khan's Toyota Land Cruiser rammed into the American Express bakery in the Bandra area of Mumbai, authorities say.

The vehicle ran over five people sleeping on the streets, killing one of them.

Trial delays

Khan was initially charged with culpable homicide. But he successfully challenged that charge in court and it was reduced to "causing death by negligence".

The trial finally began before the Bandra Magistrate Court in 2006. As it was a lesser charge, Khan has not had to appear before the court.

The court heard several witnesses between 2006 and 2011 but in March 2011 the prosecution asked for the more serious charge to be reinstated. This latest order is a response to that application.

"There is enough evidence to show that the act was not incidental and hence the case should be tried under a more serious section," Magistrate Vasant Patil said in his order.

Khan will now have to appear in court on 11 March, Mr Khan's lawyer Dipesh Mehta told the BBC's Zubair Ahmed in Mumbai.

"In our humble opinion there was no need to add this charge, there are no changes in the circumstances, " Mr Mehta said. The actor would challenge the order in the high court, he added.

"When a man knows he is innocent and then he has to face this court order surely he will be hurt. But we have faith in our judiciary. And it is our belief that justice will be given to him," he told our correspondent.

There have been several complaints about delays to the trial - the case has stretched on for the best part of a decade. Mumbai police deny causing deliberate delays.

Analysts say it is not unusual for cases to go on for many years, even decades, and there have long been complaints about the laborious nature and slow pace of India's judicial system.

Khan is a hugely popular and successful actor. He has often been described as a "bad boy" heart-throb. Our correspondent in Mumbai says this latest development is clearly a setback for Khan whose career has flourished since his more troubled days.

Our correspondent in Mumbai says this is clearly a setback for Khan whose career has flourished since his more troubled days. He adds that there is likely to be considerable media presence if Khan does indeed appear at court in March.

In 2006, he was sentenced to five years in prison for hunting a protected deer, but he was released on bail after spending less than a week in jail.

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