With actor Salman Khan being charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder in the 2002 hit-and-run case, noted criminal lawyer Majid Memon on Wednesday said the stage is now set for calling the witnesses and recording their evidence.
"It's a part of the procedure of a criminal trial. Before the evidence is led, the law requires the learned trial court judge to explain charges to the accused and the accused is asked whether he pleads guilty or not. And as expected, Salman has pleaded not guilty," Memon told Asian News International (ANI) here.
"Therefore, the next step of the trial court is to summon the witnesses asked by the prosecution. And I think, the trial will now take pace and open up because we already had a delay of almost 11 years in this so publicized case," he added.
A Mumbai sessions court earlier in the day framed charges against the 47-year-old actor, who pleaded not guilty.
"Initially in the court when the judge came, he said he would not be framing the charges or he would not be deciding the other two applicants of intervention and restrain on media. However, when Salman's lawyer moved a petition for exemption and it was told to the court that Salman would be away for two months for shooting, the judge decided to frame the charges against 228 CrPC so that in the next hearing Salman would not be required," said Abha Singh, the lawyer in the hit-and-run case.
"However, he has been given exemption with the clause that if and when the judge orders that he has to be present for the trial Salman Khan has to be present," she added.
Abha Singh further said that the next hearing in this case will take place on August 19.
Salman, who was accompanied by his sisters Arpita and Alvira in the court today, could face up to 10 years in jail if convicted.
The Mumbai Sessions Court had earlier on June 24 rejected his review petition.
Salman was earlier tried by a magistrate under lesser charge of causing death by negligence (Section 304A of IPC), that provides for a maximum punishment of two years in jail.
The Bombay High Court had earlier held that Section 304 part II of the Indian Penal Code (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) was not applicable in this case and that the actor be tried under 304 A of IPC (rash and negligent driving) and other relevant sections.
The metropolitan magistrate's court in Bandra had framed charges against the actor under Sections 304 A of the IPC (rash and negligent driving), 279 (rash driving), 337 (causing minor injuries), 338 (causing major injuries) and 427 (negligence).
Salman's Toyota Land Cruiser vehicle had rammed into a bakery in suburban Bandra killing one and injuring four persons who were sleeping on a pavement on September 28, 2002. (ANI)