, MUMBAI, July 24 – An Indian court on Wednesday charged Bollywood star Salman Khan with culpable homicide over a 2002 hit and run case that could land him behind bars for 10 years, his lawyer and reports said.
Khan, 47, is alleged to have rammed his Toyota Land Cruiser vehicle onto a pavement and over five sleeping homeless people in suburban Mumbai, killing one and injuring four others.
Khan, wearing a grey shirt and black trousers, pleaded not guilty to charges including culpable homicide not amounting to murder in a Mumbai sessions court, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency said.
Prosecutor Shankar Erande asked the judge to frame the charges on Wednesday, rather than adjourn the long running case, as the actor was going abroad for two months, which could further delay it going to trial, PTI said.
The judge then read out the charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Khan was earlier being tried under lesser charges of rash and negligent driving but prosecutors filed an application for the charges to be upgraded, which the court upheld this February.
Khan’s lawyer Majeed Memon told reporters the case has dragged on for almost 11 years, and blamed the legal system in part for delays.
“It has been unduly delayed and today, when almost 11 years have passed by since the date of the incident, the charges have been framed by the competent court,” Memon said.
Petitioner Abha Singh, who was present in the courtroom, told media outside the court that the judge, while framing the charges, said “Salman Khan’s blood contained 30 mg of alcohol, according to that he was drunk.”
Mumbai’s laws prohibit anyone from driving or attempting to drive a vehicle if their blood alcohol levels exceed 30 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood.
Singh has filed a separate petition questioning the decade long delay in trying Khan.
Khan known for his muscular physique and off camera fits of temper has been a controversial figure since he first broke into Bollywood in the late 1980s in the romance film “Maine Pyar Kiya” (I Fell in Love).
In 1998, he spent more than a week in prison for killing endangered Indian gazelles in the northern state of Rajasthan.