Bollywood superstar Salman Khan got a temporary reprieve on Friday when the Mumbai High Court granted him bail and suspended a five-year prison sentence handed down by a lower court earlier this week. Khan, one of India's highest-paid actors, is expected to post a 30,000-rupee ($470) bail, according to local news reports.
On Wednesday, a lower court had found Khan guilty of culpable homicide for running over five people, one of whom died, while driving drunk in September 2002 in the upscale suburb of Bandra, Mumbai, which is home to many of Bollywood's top celebrities. The long-running case has attracted significant media attention among Indians in the country and abroad, given Khan's reputation as a hit-machine and a philanthropist.
A suspended sentence means the actor, who has nearly 2 billion rupees ($31 million) riding on him in unfinished film projects, will now remain free until a court rules over the next appeal. The high court has reportedly asked the actor to surrender his passport while announcing that he'd be allowed to travel abroad based on the court's discretion, according to local television reports.
Shares of Eros International Media Limited, a Mumbai-based studio with interests in movies starring Khan, were trading up more than 4 percent after the high court ruling. The company's stock had taken a hit Wednesday after Khan was found guilty and sentenced.
The court's decision to sentence Khan after a period of more than a dozen years has been the topic of evening talk shows on Indian television with opinion divided on issues ranging from the arguments presented by the defense and prosecution teams to the length of the actual prison sentence.
On Friday, a fan of the actor tried to commit suicide outside the court to oppose Khan's sentence, according to India Today, a local news source. Meanwhile, others called for stronger punishment while demanding that bail be not granted for the superstar.