In May, Salman's long and much-reported trial finally arrived at endgame as a Sessions Court prepared to deliver its verdict. The actor is accused of drunkenly driving over pavement dwellers in September 2002, killing one. For years, the actor's lawyers argued that he was not driving the car. Before the court's verdict, the Khan family driver Ashok Singh claimed responsibility, insisting he had been at the wheel of the SUV and that Salman had just been a passenger.
On May 6, the court found the actor guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and sentenced him to five years in jail. In the judgement, the court also dismissed Ashok Singh's claim, saying that he had come forward at the behest of Salman's father Salim Khan. Social media cheered, Bollywood closed ranks. A stream of celebrity visitors were photographed at Galaxy Apartments, the Khan residence, from Shah Rukh Khan on the night before the verdict to Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Preity Zinta, Rani Mukerji and several others after the verdict had been delivered. Some Salman loyalists, notably jewellery designer Farah Khan Ali and singer Abhijeet, outraged Twitter by defending the actor in tweets such as these (and these were not even the worst):
It's like penalising a train driver because someone decided to cross the tracks and got killed in the bargain. #salmankhancase— Farah Khan (@FarahKhanAli) May 6, 2015
Suicide is crime so is sleeping on footpath..80% homeles film ppl strugld achievd stardom but never slept on footpath @BeingSalmanKhan— abhijeet (@abhijeetsinger) May 6, 2015
Two days later, on Friday, May 8, the Bombay High Court decided not to send the actor to jail until his appeal was heard (the appeal began is ongoing), granting him bail. After completing bail formalities at court, Salman returned home and made his first proper public appearance on the balcony of his home, acknowledging the crowd of fans and the bank of cameras with the three-fingered salute from his film Jai Ho. Fans gave his homecoming the sort of welcome usually reserved for one of his blockbuster films. A trending hashtag on Twitter - #SalmanFridayRelease - agreed that it was possibly one of the biggest Fridays for the actor.
A Friday just as big, at least in box office terms, came along two months later. Bajrangi Bhaijaan, the first of Salman Khan's two films this year, released on July 17 to coincide with the Eid weekend that is now customarily booked for a Salman film. Bajrangi Bhaijaan, directed by Kabir Khan and co-starring Kareena Kapoor, was the film Salman had been shooting in Kashmir when the hit-and-run verdict was delivered. The film was in instant blockbuster - Salman's eighth in a row - and made over Rs 300 crores at home, shattering several records on the way.
He wasn't done just yet. November's Diwali date, usually reserved for Shah Rukh Khan, was this year occupied by Salman's second film of 2015 - Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, which reunited the actor with his Maine Pyar Kiya director Sooraj Barjatya. The actor's second outing of the year, in which he played a double role, made over Rs 200 crores at home. Added up, the total collections of both his films placed Salman in a category he is currently the sole occupant of - he is the only actor to have made Bollywood Rs 500 crores in a single year.
The best, however, was saved for the last. On December 10, days before his milestone birthday, Salman was acquitted of all charges in the hit-and-run case by the Bombay High Court. The verdict said he could not be convicted on the basis of the evidence produced by the prosecution. As the judge read out the order, the actor broke down in court, surrounded by his family.
Salman Khan is currently prepping for his next film Sultan, in which he plays a wrestler.