Bollywood superstar and convicted criminal Salman Khan will not have to stay in prison while the Bombay High Court considers his appeal, two days after a trial court sentenced him to five years in jail for killing one person in a hit-and-run case from 2002.

Justice AM Thipsay on Friday suspended Khan's sentence after an initial hearing on his appeal at which the superstar's lawyers argued that the trial court had not considered all the evidence on hand during the trial. This means that he has been granted regular bail and will not have to spend time in jail while the appeal is being heard by the High Court.

The 49-year-old Khan was charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder and rash driving after his Toyota Land Cruiser ran into a group of people sleeping on the footpath outside the American Express bakery in Bandra in northwest Mumbai on September 28, 2002. Khan had been given bail for two days by the Bombay High Court, mostly because the judgment convicting him had not been delivered in time.

Bollywood support

In the two days between the guilty verdict and the Bombay High Court's taking up off the issue, much of Bollywood rallied behind the superstar, with many saying his upstanding character and the amount of business that depends on Khan should be reason enough for bail. Others have however said that Salman Khan's case should be treated as an exemplary one that can send a message to the wider public about those who drink and drive, drive rashly and are involved in hit-and-runs.

The verdict had brought an end to the long a 13-year-long drama in the highly public case, which began with the Mumbai police chargesheet. This said that an inebriated Khan had been driving his vehicle at high speed in the early hours of September 28, had lost control and had rammed into a group of people sleeping on the footpath outside the American Express Bakery, killing Nurulah Sharif and injuring four others. Mumbai Police constable Ravindra Patil, who had been deputed to protect Khan because the actor was being threatened by the underworld, made two separate statements that the actor had been behind the wheel and had been drinking.

Patil later recanted his statements and was sacked from the Mumbai Police. He died of tuberculosis in 2007.

Khan was arrested on September 28, 2002, and released the same day. He was charged under Section 304 (2) with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, a charge that was struck down by the Bombay High Court in 2003. This Bombay High Court order was set aside by the Supreme Court in 2003, paving the way for the case to being re-examined.

Twists and turns

Several twists emerged when the case was re-opened at the Bombay City Civil and Session Court in 2013. The case diaries and the statements of 56 witnesses appear to have vanished over the 13 years since the incident. Singer Kamaal Khan, who was in the vehicle at the time of the incident, was dropped as a witness by the prosecution.

On March 27, Salman Khan made the sensational disclosure to the court that his family driver, Ashok Singh, was actually the one who was behind the wheel. Three days later, Ashok Singh backed Khan in court, saying that it hadn’t previously occurred to him to reveal this vital piece of information to the police. Khan’s defence team also argued that in the bar he visited before getting into the vehicle, the actor had been sipping on water, rather than alcohol. The actor's lawyers also claimed Nurullah Sharif did not die because the vehicle rammed into him, but because its bumper came loose and fell on him during the salvage operation.

The trial court however, did not buy these arguments, saying instead that it was evident Salman Khan was behind the wheel that night, having consumed alcohol, and so is guilty of culpable homicide.