Mumbai: A CBI special court here on Friday acquitted actor Sooraj Pancholi, who was accused of abetment in the suicide of actress Jiah Khan in 2013.
Pancholi, 32, was present in the court along with his parents Aditya Pancholi and Zarina Wahab when Special Judge A.S. Sayyed pronounced the much-anticipated verdict before a packed courtroom this afternoon. "Due to paucity of evidence, this court can't hold you guilty. Hence acquitted," said Special Judge Sayyed.
He also said that Rabiya Khan, Jiah's mother, could appeal in the matter in the Bombay High Court.
A visibly upset Rabiya, who has been relentlessly pursuing the case since the past 10 years, later said that she will file an appeal against the court verdict.
A relieved Aditya Pancholi reacted by saying, "the truth always wins! God is great!", while his wife Zarina was in tears and barely able to speak.
Nafisa Rizvi Khan, 25, famous as Jiah, was found dead in her Mumbai flat in Sagar Sangeet apartments, Juhu, around midnight on June 3, 2013, sparking a huge sensation in Bollywood circles.
The tragedy took place hours after Sooraj had left her home after living with her for two days, and later the Juhu Police Station recovered a note left by Jiah.
In the note pointing the needle of suspicion at Sooraj, she had narrated her troubled relationship, the ordeal, intimacy, physical and mental abuse and tortures, allegedly perpetrated on her by the actor.
Based on the note, the Mumbai Police booked and arrested Sooraj under IPC Sec. 306 (abetment to suicide) on June 10, 2012, and he remained in jail for nearly a month till the Bombay High Court granted him bail of Rs 50,000, on July 1, 2013. As Rabiya pursued the matter, a year later in July 2014, the Bombay High Court transferred the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), after which Aditya Pancholi hit back by slapping a Rs 100 crore defamation suit against Jiah's mother.
The Mumbai Police probe in 2013 had concluded that it was a suicide as Sooraj had broken off their relationship, and her career was not going ahead. Subsequently the CBI also upheld the case as 'suicide' in February 2016.
Undeterred, she challenged the CBI investigation report in the high court which was dismissed.
In view of Rabiya's continued allegations of 'murder' against Sooraj, the prosecution attempted to enhance the charges to rape and murder in 2017, and he was charged with 'abetment to suicide' in 2018. In 2022, Rabiya moved the Bombay High Court seeking to reopen the case, suspecting alleged errors in the previous probe and other things, but her plea was rejected.
She reiterated the allegations that her daughter was "murdered" and sought an investigation afresh by an independent or special agency with help from the Federal Bureau of Investigation as Jiah was a US national.
Jiah is best remembered for her role as a teenager in love with a senior citizen Amitabh Bachchan in 'Nishabd' (2007), and other superhits like 'Ghajini' (2008) with Aamir Khan and Asin, and then the multi-starrer 'Housefull' (2010) in which she rubbed shoulders with Akshay Kumar, Riteish Deshmukh, Arjun Rampal, Lara Dutta and Deepika Padukone.
Sooraj Pancholi worked as an Assistant Director for 'Guzaarish' (2010), 'Ek Tha Tiger' (2012), and then took to acting with his award-winning debut in 'Hero' (2015), 'Satellite Shankar' (2019), 'Time To Dance' (2021) and currently working in a biopic, 'Hawa Singh', likely to be released this year.