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Salman gets reprieve from HC

  • In Entertainment
  • 00:00, 8 May
  • By Wire Service

Mumbai: Mumbai's High Court has suspended Bollywood superstar Salman Khan's prison sentence while he appeals his conviction in a fatal hit-and-run case. Khan, one of India's most bankable stars, was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison for running over several men sleeping on a Mumbai pavement, and killing one of them.

He was free on two days' bail, and many had expected him to be taken into custody Friday. However, the High Court will allow him to remain free until his appeal hearing in July, said prosecutor Pradeep Garratt.

Khan will not be allowed to leave the country during the time without permission. Crowds outside the court erupted in cheers as the news spread. If his sentence was upheld, Khan's absence could cost the Indian film industry more than $31 million, trade analysts say.

The 49-year-old Khan's stature in Bollywood can't be overstated. He is Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and George Clooney rolled into one -- oozing sex appeal and machismo in the more than 80 movies he's starred in.

In its list of the best looking man in the world, People Magazine once placed him at no. 7. He has a rabid fan base (with 11 million Twitter followers), and has enjoyed an unheard-of two-decade reign at the top.

The hit-and-run incident took place outside a Mumbai bakery more than 12 years ago, in September 2002. Prosecutors said Khan ran over five sleeping men after losing control of his sports utility vehicle. He was returning from a bar after a night of drinking, they said. One of the victims was killed; the others injured.

The actor contended he wasn't the driver. Prosecutors said he left the scene after the crash. On Wednesday, a Mumbai court found that Khan was behind the wheel at the time, and that he was drunk. He was convicted of culpable homicide and seven other charges.

He faced a maximum of 10 years in prison; the judge sentenced him to five. If the sentence was upheld, it will bring his long and storied career as a movie heartthrob to a screeching halt. He has several films in the pipeline. He also stands to lose out on large sums of money from endorsement deals.