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None is above law

None is above law
Highlights

Five years is a lot of time in one’s life, someone rightly said on conviction and imprisonment of Bollywood actor Salman Khan. But then, he is responsible for the death of a ha

The multiple botch-up and conviction on four counts leave Salman no escape

Five years is a lot of time in one’s life, someone rightly said on conviction and imprisonment of Bollywood actor Salman Khan. But then, he is responsible for the death of a hapless pavement dweller that he ran over. A Mumbai court found him guilty of “rash and negligent driving,” driving without licence, driving in a drunken state and then fleeing the scene of accident when he could have taken the victim to hospital and possibly saved his life.

The multiple botch-up and conviction on four counts leave him no escape. He is bound to appeal against the judgment. It is sad that one of the most popular persons in the country, having a global following, tearfully listened to the verdict against him. Ironically, he has been playing both good cop (Chulbul Pande) and bad-man-doing-good-things. His case before the law worsened when his lawyers brought his driver to claim the actor was not at the wheels and also when they questioned the forensic evidence.

The court has rejected all that. Salman was well within his rights to try to save himself, but the ring of untruth is loud and clear. It does not help the reputation of a person widely perceived as good, engaging in charity and espousing public causes, yet unable to shed the spoilt-brat image. That is not all. The Supreme Court had in January quashed a Rajasthan High Court order suspending his conviction, also for five years’ imprisonment for hunting a black buck, an endangered animal species.

The final verdict in that case, till it comes, remains the proverbial Damocles Sword on his head. In both cases, the public and the media vehemently debated whether he was paying a price for being a celebrity or if the courts were indulgent to him because of that status. The Wednesday verdict reiterates the universal: nobody is above the law.

There is understandable show of sympathy and support for him from his fans and from the film fraternity that suffered an earlier loss with imprisonment of Sanjay Dutt. He was convicted in 2013 for illegally possessing high caliber firearms that he thought could save him from riotous mobs in 1992-93 violence that followed the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Convicted, but not considered a terrorist, Dutt is serving his sentence in Pune.

These are serious setbacks to Bollywood which, along with other language films, makes India the world’s largest maker of films. Cinema is integral to India’s cultural diplomacy. A part of the 250 million diaspora, whether or not it visits India, feeds on them.

Salman’s incarceration means a possible loss of up to Rs 500 crore. But, more than that is the image of the person. That the Mumbai judge rejected his plea for compensating the victim’s family – he has already paid Rs 18 lakh – indicates that money cannot buy acquittal.

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