Mumbai: Actor Saif Ali Khan was arrested briefly on Wednesday after a guest at one of Mumbai's high profile hotels registered a case of assault against the actor, accusing him of punching him in the nose following a heated argument. Khan's girlfriend and actress Kareena Kapoor was present when the incident happened late Tuesday.
Khan, 41, and two of his friends friends Bilal Amrohi and Shakeel Ladak were granted bail on a surety of Rs 3000. The midnight brawl at the Wasabi restaurant in the Taj Hotel got ugly when Iqbal Sharma, a South African businessman of Indian origin, complained to Khan and his guests, including actor Malaika Arora Khan, her sister Amrita Arora and Amrita's husband Ladak, that they were making too much noise at their table.
Sharma, who was seated at an adjacent table at the time of the incident, claimed he did not know who Khan was.
Sharma said Saif called him an "idiot" for complaining about the actor's loud conduct and asked him to go to a library if he wanted peace and quiet before assaulting him. The police registered an FIR against Khan and his friends under sections 325 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intent) of IPC.
Assistant Commisssioner of police Iqbal Shaikh told reporters that the complainant went to the G T Hospital following the incident and then reported the matter to the police around 2:30 this morning.
Meanwhile, Khan said: "I hope the media is able to remain impartial while the matter is being decided. I don't think any gentleman would have behaved differently." Khan said it was he who was assaulted and that he only defended himself.
"I think they have the CCTV footage in the restaurant that will prove everything. I was hit and I defended myself. I have been to the police station to answer the requirements of law as I am a law abiding citizen. I have also filed a complaint about what happened last night and I am confident justice will be done," Khan said.
However, reacting to Khan's statement, Iqbal Sharma's wife Tarina said, "It is absolutely untrue what Saif has said. The ladies with Saif were not touched. Saif was not attacked first. Nothing justifies hitting a 68-year-old man. In fact one of the waiters also saw Shakil Ladak hit my father and run away."
The incident, according to the complaint registered by Sharma with the Colaba police station, occurred just past midnight when Khan along with Kareena and some others were having dinner at the restaurant.
Police also confirmed that Khan has filed a counter-complaint. Police sources said will make enquiries into his complaint and take further action. But as Khan suffered no fracture or major injury, any offence registered will be non-cognizable.
Earlier in the day, Shaikh said a police team was despatched to the actor's Bandra residence but he was not present there and his mobile phone was also switched off. Sharma said that the security personnel at the hotel were nowhere to be seen during the incident.
Sharma and his 68-year-old father-in-law, who was also allegedly beaten by Saif and his three male friends, said they were abused before being assaulted for their "audacity to complain to the management asking them to keep their voice down". "As we were going down the stairs, Saif was coming up, probably from the toilet. As he passed me, he called me an idiot and asked 'do you know who I am?'"
Sharma said the actor first pushed him and then assaulted his father-in-law who fell on the stairs and bruised his jaw.
He said he had discovered that one of the assailants was Ladak. "The other two gentlemen I don't know." Asked if Khan and his friends were under the influence of alcohol, his father-in-law, who identified himself only as Patel, said,"I cannot say but they were very rowdy." On whether it was a drunken brawl, Sharma said, "We can't say they were drunk or intoxicated, but sober people don't behave like that." Khan has been involved in public spats earlier too, including some photo journalists in Patiala in September 2008.
When asked whether he would consider a compromise if approached by Khan as the offence under which the actor had been charged was compoundable, Sharma said,
"We have not been approached by Saif or anybody. It is too late for a compromise
or apology. He should have apologised to Daddy then. This is not how you behave with a senior citizen. Now it is too late."
Incidentally, Sharma, the man at the receiving end of Khan's wrath at The Taj, is the former Deputy Director General of South Africa's department of Trade and Industry. He is also the CEO of Trade and Investment South Africa (TISA). Currently, Sharma is working as a non-executive director on the board of Transnet.
He has worked closely with the South African government and has played a part in South Africa's bilateral trade relations and negotiations. Iqbal Sharma's CV features the names of companies such as PepsiCo and the Bank of America.
(With additional information from PTI)