Two days after he was handed a guilty verdict and a five-year prison sentence, Bollywood superstar Salman Khan has been formally granted bail. On Wednesday, Khan was found guilty of “culpable homicide not amounting to murder” in the death of a homeless man stemming from a 2002 hit-and-run incident in Mumbai. His attorneys are planning an appeal and the Mumbai High Court today agreed to allow the actor to remain free on a further bond of 30,000 rupees ($470). Given Khan has been free for the past 13 years as the case has dragged on, the judge noted he is “not likely to abscond during the pendency of appeal.”
The bail acceptance will come as welcome news to the Bollywood film industry whose top stars are responsible for sizable chunks of annual box office, Khan among the top tier. His next film, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, a romantic action drama he produced and which co-stars Kareena Kapoor, is due for release on July 17, the start of the lucrative Eid-al-fitr holiday period. It is understood that the movie still has some shooting to go, which would have been difficult to accomplish from a prison cell. After the guilty verdict on Wednesday, shares in Eros International, which is releasing Bajrangi Bhaijaan, dropped as much as 7%. Following the bail decision today, Eros shares were up about 4.3%.
According to local reports, celebrations erupted outside of Khan’s Mumbai home this morning as fans set off firecrackers in relief. While online reaction to the decision is divided, the immensely popular star is trending across Twitter with #SalmanBailOrJail at No. 1 in India, No. 4 number worldwide and No. 5 in the U.S.
The High Court is set to hear further instruction regarding the appeal when it returns from vacation in June.