Bollywood superstar Salman Khan has been handed a reprieve in a fatal hit-and-run case that has been making its way through the courts since 2002. The Mumbai High Court today acquitted the actor on appeal, saying, “The trial court’s verdict is quashed and set aside. Salman is acquitted of all charges.” It is possible this is not all over for Khan, however. Reports say the prosecution could decide to challenge this latest decision at the Supreme Court. In the meantime, Bollywood will be breathing a sigh of relief where it has been estimated that his absence during an extended incarceration could have cost the industry more than $30M.
In May, Khan was found guilty of “culpable homicide not amounting to murder” in the death of a homeless man during the incident in which he had allegedly been driving drunk. He was sentenced to five years in prison, but saw that suspended two days later with a formal grant of bail. The court today said the prosecution “has failed to establish the case against the appellant of driving, and that too under the influence of alcohol.”
The initial verdict had rocked the Bollywood industry, sending shares in Eros International, the distributor of Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan, sliding by as much as 7%. Following the bail decision, they shot back up. Khan is one of the biggest earners in a country where box office is up to 90% driven by local movies.
Bajrangi went on to massive business after its late May release with $48M, making it the biggest Hindi title of the year. That’s now followed at No. 2 by his recent Diwali holiday smash, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, which has $31M to date in India and set a record on its opening weekend.
#SalmanVerdict is the No. 1 hashtag trending on Twitter in India. Khan just posted this:
I accept the decision of the judiciary with humility. I thank my family, friends & fans for their support & prayers .
— Salman Khan (@BeingSalmanKhan) December 10, 2015
There is certainly Twitter blowback that Khan benefitted from his celebrity, but fans and filmmakers have come out in his support. Hero producer and founder of the Whistling Woods International Inistitute of Film Communication & Media Arts in Mumbai, Subhash Ghai, tweeted:
God is always kind to good human beings, @BeingSalmanKhan with gods blessings is freed today from a hanging sword for thirteen years.cheers🍀
— Subhash Ghai (@SubhashGhai1) December 10, 2015