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I was driving, says Salman’s driver Ashok Singh

Salman Khan at Sessions Court

Mumbai: Ashok Singh, the family driver of Bollywood star Salman Khan, today told the sessions court here that it was he and not the actor who was driving at the time of the 2002 hit-and-run accident in which one person was killed and four others were injured.

Khan, charged by the police with ramming his Landcruiser into a bakery in suburban Bandra in a drunk state on September 28, 2002, had told the court last week that Singh was driving the car. It was the first time he made this disclosure.

Ashok Singh (42), who today appeared as a defence witness, corroborated Khan’s version completely.

Describing how the accident took place, Singh said: “A tyre burst and the car was dragged to the left….I tried to turn the steering wheel but it was hard, then I tried to apply brakes but by then the car had climbed the stairs of bakery.

“I was in a state of shock and Salman was sitting on the left side. He tried to open the door but it got jammed. He got down from my side which was on the right,” said Singh, replying to questions asked by Salman’s lawyer Shrikant Shivade.

Altaf, another driver who worked for Khan, had called him on phone at 1.30 am that day, asking him to pick up the actor at the J W Marriot hotel because he (Salman) was not well.

Singh said he reached the hotel in auto-rickshaw, and saw the actor sitting on the driver’s side with engine running and air-conditioning on. As Altaf had left, Singh got into the driver’s seat; Salman sat on his left and his friend Kamal Khan and constable Ravindra Patil, the actor’s police bodyguard, sat behind, he said.

After the accident, Singh said, he dialled `100′ and informed the police, then went to Bandra police station and told the officers there about the accident. He was asked to sit on a bench outside.

When Khan arrived there, he was arrested. He told the actor he suspected something fishy as police did not take down his (Singh’s) complaint/statement, Singh added.

During the cross-examination by special public prosecutor Pradeep Gharat, Singh denied that he was giving a false statement because he had been paid a huge amount of money.

He was in the employment of Salman’s father (script-writer) Salim Khan since 1990, Singh said.

To a question by the prosecutor, Singh denied that he was ready to sacrifice even his own life for Salman, but admitted that he was devoted to the family.

To another question, he said he was aware that one person had died and others were injured in the mishap, and he had committed an offence (by his own admission).

Asked why he kept quiet all these years when he knew thatKhan was wrongly facing the charges, Singh said he did not know what to do. When Gharat asked why he had chosen to speak now, Singh again said earlier he could not decide what to do. He had not consulted a lawyer or anyone else, he added.

Singh further said that he came to the court after Salim Khan advised him to do so; he was still working for the Khan family.

To a question, Singh denied that a tyre would burst if the vehicle was running at the speed of 100 to 140 kmph.

Singh’s version contradicts that of constable Ravindra Patil, who died of TB during the course of the trial. According to Patil, who filed the first complaint, it was Salman Khan, who, after having drinks, was driving the car.

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