Mumbai(dna): In any case, the prosecution may take a few weeks to file an appeal as it has to get an approval from the Maharashtra government.
Will luck smile on Bollywood actor Salman Khan on May 8 when the Bombay high court hears his case for freedom? The court had on Wednesday granted him interim bail for 48 hours after a sessions court in Mumbai held the superstar guilty of culpable homicide and sentenced him to five-year rigorous imprisonment in the 2002 hit-and-run case.
Legal experts feel Khan may get regular bail pending his appeal on the verdict as he has been on bail throughout the trial. However, in case the HC does not grant relief to Khan, the actor's legal team can approach the Supreme Court.
In any case, the prosecution may take a few weeks to file an appeal as it has to get an approval from the Maharashtra government.
Justice Abhay Thipsay, while granting him interim relief on Wednesday observed: "Since the applicant/appellant (Khan) was on bail throughout the trial, and since a copy of the impugned judgment of conviction has not yet been furnished to him, it would be proper to protect the appellant for some time in the interest of justice."
Normal rule in criminal law is that as far as the first appeal is concerned, if a person has been on bail throughout the trial, then s/he is ordinarily entitled to bail till the appeal is decided.
Senior advocate Amit Desai said that it is the discretion of the judge, after taking into consideration the facts and circumstances of the case. "It (extending/granting bail) depends on what court feels based on the merit of the appeal. The judge takes into consideration the gravity and nature of the offence. It is the court's duty to balance the need of the prosecution and the defence," said Desai.
Noted criminal lawyer Majeed Memon said that in Khan's case, the offence is not punishable with death sentence or life imprisonment.
Khan has been sentenced to five years of imprisonment and has been on bail since 2002. "There has not been a single complaint of him abusing his bail in the span of 13 years. He had been regular in attendance before the court and no apprehension was ever shown by the court that he would abscond or would misuse bail by tampering with the evidence."
Special public prosecutor Rohini Salian too said that in majority of the conviction cases, once the appeal is filed, it is admitted by the HC. "In such cases, the bail is granted till the HC decides the correctness of the trial court's order. In certain cases, the HC even suspends the sentence till the appeal is decided," said Salian.
Also, as the trial has concluded and all the evidence has been placed before the trial court, there is no question of the accused threatening witnesses or tampering with the evidence.
Salian added: "There can be no instance of bribing the witnesses or hostility towards the witnesses."
"It cannot be argued by the prosecution that Salman could abscond with such deep roots in society and high stakes in the film industry. In the present circumstance, no compelling grounds exist to deny bail to him pending hearing and disposal of his appeal," said Memon.
Memon also said that in the interest of early justice, it would be better to expedite the hearing of appeal and dispose it of as the incident is already 13 years old.