Everybody knows that one person was killed and four others were injured when an inebriated Salman Khan rammed his Landcruiser onto the steps of A1 Bakery at the turning near Mehboob Studios in Bandra in the wee hours of September 28, 2002.
But perhaps we don’t remember that the incident claimed one more life later. In the course of the case another strapping young man died a slow but painful death on the cold floors of a government hospital at Sewri in Mumbai. He had nobody from his family around during his final hours.
Such was the misfortune of this man that nobody from his family even came forward to claim the body immediately after his death. They were not even aware that he had died.
The handsome young man was reduced to a bag of bones at the time of his death. Not too many people came near him because the man was suffering from acute tuberculosis and would spit blood often.
He never had visitors in the last three weeks of his life, barring a newspaper reporter who found out who he was.
This man, who was not even spared the pain in his death, was the prime witness of the 2002 drunk driving case involving Salman Khan. He saw it all happen in front of his eyes.
Today I will tell you the story of constable Ravindra Patil, the unlikely hero who will perhaps never be rewarded for what he has done. But if any justice is served to the forty-something Nurullah Mehboob Sharif, who was crushed under the wheels of Salman’s Landcruiser, it will be because of this Mumbai police constable’s statement as prime witness in the case.
Sadly, Patil was under immense pressure while acting as a prime witness and his health started deteriorating rapidly. To compound his woes, Patil took to drinking and his health continued failing.
We will now tell you what was Patil doing in Salman’s Landcruiser that fateful night.
Why was Ravindra Patil with Salman that night?
Around January or February in 2002, Salman Khan had filed a report with the Mumbai Police about receiving two threatening calls from the underworld. After talking to the Bollywood star, the Mumbai Police came to the conclusion that there is a genuine threat to Salman Khan’s life.
It may be mentioned here that the Mumbai Police is also willingly or unwillingly a part of the appear-and-appease brigade of Bollywood ever since they decided to add a dash of glamour to their annual function where all the A-list actors come and dance for free. Bollywood stars usually rub shoulders with the top brass of the force.
I am not trying to say here that Bollywood stars are given preferential treatment all the time but it is common knowledge in Mumbai that any complaint or “apprehension” from any Bollywood A-lister is viewed with utmost seriousness among the Mumbai Police top brass. The police force is always there at the beck and call of Bollywood stars which is really a good thing, I must say.
Okay, moving on to the story again.
The Mumbai police, as expected, responded to the complaint immediately and assigned a 24-year-old constable, Ravindra Patil as an unarmed bodyguard for the actor.
Patil was chosen for the job because he was a handsome young man, who was fit enough to shadow Salman Khan at public events.
Patil’s friends have told the media that he used to take several of his friends to meet Salman Khan when he was on duty. In short, Patil enjoyed his job of shadowing one of the most sought-after Bollywood stars.
Salman and Patil seemed to have a good equation and the few odd months that Patil was there with him, everything seemed hunky dory.
Patil was a constable of 1998 batch and was attached to the Protection Unit of Mumbai Police. He had two elder brothers who were police constables too — Devendra Patil and Prakash Patil — all between the age of 32-35 years at that time.
On that fateful night of September 28, Salman Khan was drinking at JW Mariott hotel in Juhu, while Patil was sitting in the actor’s SUV outside the hotel.
It was also reported in some media that Salman had a driver with him that night but he was advised to go home because it was getting too late. Post midnight, when Salman emerged from JW Mariott, there were two other people along with the actor that night – Constable Patil and singer Kamal Khan
What happened after Salman rammed the SUV
Salman denied all the charges after he was taken into custody the next day. It was reported that Patil told the police that Salman was so stunned to see people wailing and crying under the wheels of his car that he chose to flee the spot rather than take the victims to the hospital.
The victims were carried to the hospital by the neighbours and Salman was arrested eight hours later. After his arrest, his blood sample was collected for testing. The sample revealed 65 milligrams of alcohol eight hours later which clearly indicated that he was drunk at the time of the incident.
So, it was clear from the very beginning that the case hinged on the statements of Patil, who was the sole eye-witness of the incident.
The entire case hinged on three crucial points mentioned by Patil in his signed statements to the police after the incident : (a) Salman was drunk, (b) Salman was driving the SUV at more than 100 kilometres per hour and (c) Patil had warned Salman to slow down but he chose to ignore the advice.
The trial court initially framed charges of culpable homicide against the actor primarily based on the testimony of Patil, but the case soon started to develop twists and turns and some witnesses allegedly changed their statements.
The case was taking a turn but Ravindra Patil hadn’t changed his statement ever — he maintained during his deposition that Salman was at the wheels of the car and that he was drunk.
But however, in the days that followed, the court found that the charge of culpable homicide was untenable against Salman and it imposed a much lighter charge of Rash and Negligent Driving against the star which carried a maximum sentence of two years as opposed to a homicide charge under which you can be jailed for 10 years.