Bollywood actor Salman Khan was acquitted by the Bombay High Court (BHC) of all charges in a 2002 hit-and-run case on Thursday as the 'prosecution failed to establish its case against the star', Times of India reported.
"On the basis of evidence submitted by the prosecution, Salman cannot be convicted," a BHC judge said while announcing the verdict. "Prosecution has failed to establish its case against the appellant accused (Salman Khan) on all charges."
“The appeal is allowed and the decision of the trial court is quashed and set aside. Salman Khan is acquitted of all charges,” judge Anil Ramchandra Joshi told the Bombay High Court. The Bollywood star had earlier been sentenced to five years in prison at the outcome of his trial in May.
Salman Khan posted a message on Twitter which said, "I accept the decision of the judiciary with humility. I thank my family, friends and fans for their support and prayers."
A BHC judge on Wednesday had said the court had "come to the conclusion that the prosecution had failed to bring material on record to establish beyond reasonable doubt that the appellant [Khan] was driving and under the influence of alcohol and also, whether the accident occurred due to bursting (of a tyre) prior to the incident or tyre burst after the incident," according to another TOI report.
"The law has no place for opinion of the public," the court said today.
In May 2015, Khan was charged by the Mumbai High Court with culpable homicide and handed a five-year sentence for crashing his SUV into a group of homeless men in India's entertainment capital Mumbai in 2002 and then fleeing the scene.
The actor had blamed his driver, saying he was responsible for the late night crash in which his Toyota Land Cruiser mounted the pavement where five men were sleeping outside a bakery in the upmarket suburb of Bandra West.
A constable attached to Khan's security detail said in an earlier statement to police that the drunk actor lost control of the car while driving at about 90 kilometres an hour.
"The people were sleeping on the footpath. Salman and (his cousin) Kamaal ran away from the spot," the constable, who died in 2007 of tuberculosis, said.
One of the sleeping labourers injured in the accident said in his statement that "Salman was so drunk he fell. He stood but he fell again and then he... ran away."
But Khan's lawyers had said the action and romantic comedy star had in fact been drinking water all evening and had climbed out of the driver's seat after the accident because the passenger side door had been damaged.
They also said the homeless man was killed during an operation to move the car, rather than the crash itself, when the bumper fell off and landed on him.
Finally, in April 2015, his driver took the stand and said he crashed after the front left tyre burst, making steering and braking difficult.
During the hearing against him, the judge told Khan in court, "you were driving the car," and found him guilty on all eight charges against him.
His sentence was suspended pending appeal within a week of his conviction and he continued to be on bail while he appealed against the verdict.