Actor Saif Ali Khan was arrested briefly on Wednesday following a case of physical assault by a guest at the Wasabi Restaurant in Taj Mahal at Colaba, Mumbai. Saif, his girlfriend – actress Kareena Kapoor, her friend-actress Amrita Arora, husband Shakeel Ladak and another man Bilal Amrohi, were having dinner at a table near the place where Iqbal Sharma, a South African businessman of Indian origin and his father-in-law were having their food. Suddenly, there was an altercation between Iqbal and Saif, which turned into a full-blown physical assault.
Iqbal in his statement said that they were not able to eat in peace due to the continual noise at the table of Saif and his friends. So he asked the management to ask the group to tone their noise down. When there was no sign of the noise reducing after management intervention, Iqbal decided to talk to one of the men in the group. As he was stepping out, he saw Saif Ali Khan coming towards him from toilet. Iqbal said, “As he passed me, he called me an idiot and asked ‘do you know who I am?’ He said if I wanted peace, I should go sit in a library. And before I could react, he started bashing me. The others in their group also joined in and started to hit me. When my father-in-law stepped to intervene, Saif pushed him and he fell down on the stairs.”
The police registered an FIR case against the actor and his friends under section 325 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intent) of IPC. The Assistant Commissioner of the Police Iqbal Shaikh told reporters that the complainant first went to GT Hospital following the incident and then reported the matter to the police at around 2:30 in the morning. Saif and his two male friends were arrested and then released on a bail of Rs. 3000.
Saif gave a press statement to the media and said that he was abused first and hit first. He said that the gentleman had hit him in the eye. He said that he highly doubted that the person got a broken nose. He added that he had acted only in self defence. He replied, “I hope the media is able to remain impartial while the matter is being decided by the court. I don’t think any gentleman would have behaved differently. Already there is a certain degree of slant in the media which is unfair. 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.”
Iqbal Shaikh said that a police team was dispatched to Saif’s Bandra residence but he was not present there and his mobile was also switched off. Saif said that the security personnel at the hotel also were no where present at the incident. They also said that the CCTV footage was also not available.
The father-in-law said that he could not tell if Saif and his friends were drunk but they were certainly behaving very rowdy. Sharma said, “We can’t say they were drunk or intoxicated, but sober people don’t behave like that.” Saif has also been involved in public spats before, including hitting some photo journalists in Patiala in September 2008 and slapping gay activist Ashok Row Kavi in the late 90s.
When inquired if Iqbal would settle for a compromise if approached by Khan as the offence is compoundable, Sharma said, “We have not been approached by Saif or anybody. It is too late for a compromise or apology. He should have apologized to Daddy then. This is not how you behave with a senior citizen. Now it is too late.”
Iqbal Sharma 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) and a non-executive director on the board of Transnet. His wife Tarina Patel who is also a model and has done a few Bollywood films, has said that Saif’s statement of acting in self-defense was utter rubbish.