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Bollywood superstar Salman Khan will not be going to jail, at least not immediately.
Despite being convicted of culpable homicide and sentenced to five years in jail for a 2002 fatal hit-and-run case on Wednesday, Khan’s lawyers immediately appealed the decision.
Confirmation of the temporary respite for the troubled actor came on Friday after the Bombay High Court suspended the earlier conviction – pending an appeal. The appeal is expected to be heard in July after the court specifies outlines in June about how the appeal will be heard.
Among the conditions specified by the court, Khan would need to seek permission if he wants to travel overseas since he will have to surrender his passport with the authorities. Khan is also required to furnish a bail bond for $500 (rupees 30,000).
One of Bollywood’s biggest stars, Khan, 49, was convicted by a Mumbai sessions court for culpable homicide in a 2002 incident in which the actor was found guilty of killing a homeless man and injuring four others after the Toyota Land Cruiser he was driving under the influence of alcohol went out of control and ran over some sleeping pedestrians in Mumbai.
Within hours of Wednesday’s judgement, Khan was given an interim two day bail by the Bombay High Court after the star’s lawyers filed an appeal. Since Friday morning, Indian TV networks went live with non-stop coverage for the bail hearing from outside the court which was swarmed with fans. The star was not present in court though some family members were.
In a dramatic twist, networks reported that a fan outside the Bombay High Court tried to kill himself by consuming “something unidentified” reportedly saying that he should be jailed instead of the star. The man was taken away to hospital.
As news of the suspended sentence hit the headlines, networks showed live coverage of crowds of Khan’s fans celebrating outside his suburban Mumbai home.
Some of India’s top film figures have also been making a beeline to the actor’s home in a show of support after he was granted bail on Wednesday. Visitors included fellow superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan. However both the stars – who are regular social media users – refrained from sharing their views online or with the media. But social media outpouring has been immense with #SalmanBailorJail trending on Friday.
For the moment, its early too speculate how the legal case will play out and whether Khan will eventually face some jail time. In the Friday judgement, judge Abhay Thipsay was quoted stating, “We cannot take pleasure in the fact that someone is in custody. There is no law that says if there is alcohol (in the blood) it is culpable homicide.”
But the industry has been concerned about any possible affects of Khan’s conviction on his upcoming films.
The actor, who is the son of veteran screenwriter Salim Khan, has delivered some of Bollywood’s biggest hits in his three decade career such as Maine Pyar Kiya, Dabangg, Ready, Bodyguard and Ek Tha Tiger, among others. Last year, Khan delivered a major hit in Kick for Walt Disney India’s UTV film unit.
Industry estimates reckon that about $31 million is riding on Khan. The actor is in the final stages of two immediate projects: his own production Bajrangi Bhaijaan (distributed by Eros International) and Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (from veteran banner Rajshri Films).
When contacted by THR, Eros did not offer any comment on how the legal case would affect its release plans for Khan’s film. Beyond films, Khan has hosted five seasons of the popular Indian version of Big Brother on Viacom18 Networks’ Hindi channel Colors. Viacom18 also did not offer comment on whether Khan was signed for future seasons of the reality show.
Khan’s legal troubles have also raised questions about how this would impact his brand power. Business paper Live Mint reported that according to industry estimates, about $7 million is riding on Khan’s endorsements of various products including the Thums Up soft drink owned by the Coca Cola Company India. “We hold the court verdict in the highest regard. We are evaluating the next steps,” said an official statement from Coca-Cola Thursday following Khan’s Wednesday conviction. Khan’s contract with the company runs till November 2016.
Khan is no stranger to controversy as he is also facing other cases for allegedly poaching endangered animals and possessing unlicensed arms, for which he has served some jail time. Khan has been battling the ongoing legal case for his alleged 1998 shooting of a protected gazelle species considered sacred by the Bishnoi community in Rajasthan state.
In recent years, Khan has offset his bad boy image with his health and education nonprofit called the Being Human Foundation. Sales from merchandise items branded with the Being Human logo have contributed to various social development projects.
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