In a major relief for Salman Khan, the Rajasthan High Court on Monday acquitted the actor in two long pending cases related to poaching the Rajasthan state animal Chinkara. In 2006, Salman had been convicted by the trial court and handed sentences of one and five years respectively for allegedly poaching three Chinkaras in two separate instances. However, Justice Nirmaljeet Kaur acquitted the actor in both the cases in a 50-page order passed Monday.
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Chinkara, or Indian Gazelle, is an endangered animal accorded the highest protection under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife protection Act 1972. In 2013, the HC had suspended the trial court verdict to allow Salman to travel out of the country for a film shoot. Salman was accused of hunting two Chinkaras at Bhawad in Mathania near Jodhpur on September 26, 1998, and another Chinkara at Ghoda farms two days later on September 28th, while he was in Jodhpur filming for Hum Saath Saath Hain.
The trial court sentenced him to one year imprisonment on February 17 2006 in the first case and to five years imprisonment on April 10 the same year in the second case. There are two other ongoing cases against the actor in Jodhpur courts, one under the Arms act and another for allegedly poaching a blackbuck. Salman’s lawyer Hastimal Saraswat hailed the HC verdict.
“It finally proves what we had been saying all along. There is no doubt that the police and the forest department fudged and even made up evidence and manipulated witnesses. The HC rejected all arguments made by the presentation,” Saraswat told The Indian Express. He, however, refused to comment on whether the acquittal could likely have an impact on the other cases.
“They are totally separate cases. some evidence might have been common in all four cases but we are not sure. That could be said only after reading the judgment,” he said. Mahipal Vishnoi, lawyer for the Bishnoi community which revers the animal and was a party to the case against Salman along with the state government, said any decision to appeal the verdict would be taken after examining the order. “We have not received the order yet. Neither has the state government. We will read the order and then decide whether an appeal should be made to the Supreme Court,” he said