The prosecution in the Salman Khan hit-and-run case made a fervent plea to the court on Wednesday to reject the claim by the Bollywood actor's driver Ashok Singh that he was driving the killer vehicle during the 2002 accident in which a pavement dweller was killed.
Rejecting and disbelieving Salman's submission that he was not driving the vehicle, and the subsequent admission by his driver, public prosecutor Pradeep Gharat questioned the presence of the fourth person in the car.
In the past 13 years, the presence of only three people was known -- Salman, his friend and singer Kamaal Khan, and police bodyguard, late Ravindra Patil, the public prosecutor said.
"He (Ashok Singh) appears to have been brought in now," Gharat told Additional Sessions Judge D.W. Deshpande, during the resumption of the final arguments in the September 28, 2002 accident case which left one pavement dweller dead and four others injured.
He pointed out that Salman revealed the details only when the actor's statement was being recorded under section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
"You never ever mentioned about the fourth person. Can this piece of evidence be accepted," Gharat asked defence lawyer Shrikant Shivade.
None of the witnesses examined in the court had given this suggestion or confronted with the new piece of evidence claimed by Salman, the prosecutor said.
Even after recording the statement, when the court asked Salman whether he wanted to examine himself, he had replied in the negative as he would have been exposed in the cross-examination, Gharat continued.
He said that since the beginning of the trial, Salman had accepted that the vehicle was owned by him, it was established by the documentation and proved it was in his possession at the relevant time.
But even at that stage, he did not disclose that driver Ashok Singh was driving it at the time of the accident, Gharat told the court.
Moreover, questioning Ashok Singh's statement in which he spoke of a burst tyre and losing control of the vehicle, Gharat argued that the Toyoto Land Cruiser was a sophisticated, modern vehicle which would have given indications of any problems to the driver.
Accordingly, the prosecutor contended that it was difficult to believe the driver's version on the accident.
In a major development in the trial, driver Ashok Singh earlier told Sessions Judge D.W. Deshpande that he was at the wheel of the SUV which was not speeding when its tyre burst, but the car dragged to the left and he lost control.
Although he tried hard to apply the brakes, the vehicle had already climbed the stairs of the American Express Bakery, resulting in the accident.
The arguments will now resume on April 6.