The prosecution in the Salman Khan hit-and-run case on Monday rejected the testimony of the Bollywood actor's driver that he was driving the vehicle at the time of the September 2002 accident, and termed him a "self-condemned liar" who could face perjury charges.
Public Prosecutor Pradeep Gharat said Ashok Singh had lied under oath and was coached by the defence counsel to lie in the court, while continuing the arguments in the hit-and-run case which left one pavement dweller dead and four others injured.
Last month, the driver's name cropped up for the first time when Salman testified that he was not driving the vehicle at the time and named Singh - who later confessed before Additional Sessions Judge D. W. Deshpande.
Terming the timing of the driver's confession as "suspicious", Gharat rejected it and called him a "self-condemned liar" who could be liable for perjury for falsely owning up to the accident.
He said there was no doubt that Salman was driving the vehicle that night when it met with the accident outside American Express Bakery in Bandra West suburb of Mumbai, close to the actor's seafront residence in Galaxy Apartments.
"Salim Khan (father of Salman) asked him (Singh) to own up and he owns up.. the conduct of the driver is unnatural," Gharat argued.
At the time of the accident, Gharat said witnesses heard a "big bang" and many had seen the actor stepping out of the right side of the vehicle.
"All witnesses said that he and his friend Kamaal Khan ran away from there after the accident," Gharat said, citing that witness Francis had testified to this fact and this was never challenged.
"At that time, the witness (Singh) was not present. He is a liar. He has stepped forward for the accused now, for whatever may be the reasons," he said.
He added Singh has testified that he went to Bandra Police station but was not arrested and asked to wait outside.
"He told the court that he was not arrested, and later that morning, Salman Khan was nabbed. He further said there was a huge crowd of media persons outside when police came out with Salman and their photographs were clicked. At that point with such a grand opportunity, whey did he not tell the truth to media?" Gharat asked.
The prosecution has charged Salman with drunken driving and not possessing a valid licence, both of which he has denied.
Gharat made a strong pitch for the court to accept the statement of the late Ravindra Patil, the police bodyguard assigned to Salman, who was the complainant in the case.
"The death of a witness does not come in the way of evidence. He was examined by the court (metropolitan magistrate's court, Bandra). He was also available for cross examination, and had given a detailed account of the sequence of events in his complaint," argued Gharat, citing supporting judgements on the issue.
The arguments in the case will continue again on Tuesday.