A Jodhpur court on Thursday held Bollywood actor Salman Khan guilty and awarded him five years in jail in a case related to blackbuck poaching filed against him in 1998. The court also imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on the actor.
Salman’s lawyers plan to move the sessions court as well as the Rajasthan High Court for bail. If the bail application is not heard today, the actor will have to spend the night in jail today. He is currently being taken to Jodhpur Central Jail, where Asaram Bapu is lodged in a rape case.
Actors Sonali Bendre, Saif Ali Khan, Neelam and Tabu, who were co-accused in the case, were however acquitted by the court. Dushyant Singh, who was allegedly accompanying the actors when the poaching took place, was also acquitted.
Salman has been accused of killing two blackbucks in September, 1998 in Kankani village, Jodhpur, during the shooting of “Hum Saath Saath Hain”. While the prosecution had demanded maximum punishment, Salman’s lawyer had pleaded for minimum sentence. In less than three years of jail, the actor could have applied for bail in the same court. However, in view of the quantum of punishment pronounced, he will now have to move a higher court.
Meanwhile, the Bishnoi community of Rajasthan has expressed displeasure over the acquittal of Saif, Tabu, Neelam and Sonali. A member said they would appeal against the acquittal of the four co-accused in the blackbuck poaching case. He said they would also approach the state forest department to appeal against the acquittal and would send a representation to the government.
Here’s a quick recap:
What is the Kankani blackbuck shooting case all about?
A complaint was registered by the Bishnoi community of Rajasthan on October 2 that year against the actors, who allegedly hunted down two blackbucks during the filming of the movie. According to the complaint, Salman Khan is accused of killing two black bucks in Bhagoda ki Dhani near Jodhpur on the intervening night of October 1-2, 1998. He was also charged for possessing a weapon with an expired license.
“All of them were in a Gypsy car that night, with Salman Khan in the driving seat. He, on spotting a herd of black bucks, shot at and killed two of them,” public prosecutor Bhawani Singh Bhati had said. “But on being spotted and chased, they fled from the spot leaving the dead animals there,” he said, adding that there was adequate evidence against them.
Who all are the accused?
Besides the actors — Salman Khan, Sonali Bendre, Saif Ali Khan, Neelam and Tabu — the case involves two more accused, Dushyant Singh, who has now been acquitted and Dinesh Gawre, said to be Salman Khan’s assistant.
What are the charges they faced?
While Salman Khan faced charges under Section 51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, the other actors were charged under Section 51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act read with Section 149 (unlawful assembly) of the Indian Penal Code. Under Section 51, enforcement can be performed by agencies such as the Forest Department, the Police, the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), the Customs and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Chargesheets can be filed directly by the Forest Department.
Here’s how the Kankani case progressed:
While Salman was released on bail on October 17 the same year, he was later held guilty by a trial court in 2006. He was charged under the Wildlife (Protection) Act and was sentenced to five years jail term. He was also asked to pay a fine of Rs 25,000. While the actor spent six days in jail, the sentence was suspended by the Rajasthan High Court.
The final arguments in the case were completed in the trial court on March 28 this year, following which Chief Judicial Magistrate Dev Kumar Khatri reserved the judgment for today. During the final arguments, the prosecution counsel had described the spot of alleged poaching, citing the statements of witnesses Poonam Chand and Chhoga Ram and the post-mortem report.
However, while submitting his arguments, Khan’s counsel H M Saraswat ran the video recording of the statements of Poonam Chand and drew the attention of the court to the “contradiction” in his statements taken by the investigating officer and the statements given by the witness.
“Videography of the statements of Poonam Chand clearly showed that the official noting the statements had been copying them from a paper lying on the table beside him,” argued Saraswat.
Salman was earlier acquitted in two poaching cases by the high court and in a case under Arms Act by the lower court. The actor later appeared in the district and sessions court for filing bail bonds after the state challenged his acquittal in the case under Arms Act.
What are the other poaching cases against the actor?
The actor was also charged with two other poaching cases of Chinkara deer and blackbuck in Bhawad village and Mathania village respectively. He was acquitted in both the cases. However, the verdict in the Chinkara deer case was challenged by the Rajasthan government in the Supreme Court following which the actor was issued notice. The matter is currently pending with the top court.