THE district and sessions court in Jodhpur on Saturday granted bail to actor Salman Khan after suspending the order of a trial court that sentenced the actor to five years of imprisonment and slapped him with a fine of Rs 10,000.
Khan has been granted bail on the condition that he will have to produce two sureties worth Rs 25,000 each and a personal bail bond of Rs 50,000. The sentence has been suspended till the hearing of the actor’s appeal against the conviction. “The appellant/accused is also directed that during the time the appeal is decided, he cannot go outside India without permission of this court,” said the order.
A few hours after the court order, Khan, who has been lodged at the Jodhpur Central Jail ever since his conviction on Thursday, left the city. The next date for hearing on his appeal has been fixed for May 7 and the actor has been asked to be present at the court that day.
“It’s a baseless argument by the prosecution that the previous acquittals of Khan by the Rajasthan High Court cannot be termed as final because the government’s appeal is pending in Supreme Court. If the High Court decisions of acquittal are not final, then the five-year sentence of the trial court is also not final as it’s the lowest court and we are appealing against the decision,” Khan’s counsel Mahesh Bora argued in the court on Saturday. (Khan had been acquitted by the High Court in two cases of chinkara poaching in July 2016 and in one of case under the Arms Act in January 2017.)
Bora also cited a forensic science laboratory (FSL) report that said that no gunshot wound could be ascertained from the bones of the blackbucks sent to the forensic lab. “There’s no question of misuse of liberty by Khan if he is granted bail as in the past 20 years he has not jumped a single hearing despite having a busy schedule,” Bora had said.
The prosecution, however, told district and sessions judge Ravindra Kumar Joshi that the current case is the strongest of all the cases filed against the actor.
“This case shouldn’t be seen in the same way as the ones in which Khan has been acquitted by the High Court. The second postmortem report clearly states the animal died of gunshot wounds and the fact that the eyewitness stuck to his statements throughout the trial shows that our case is strong,” said public prosecutor Pokhar Ram Bishnoi.
Even though judge Joshi was transferred along with several other judicial officers on Friday night, he heard Khan’s case on Saturday morning.
After Khan was granted bail, a large number of his fans celebrated outside the court campus and raised slogans in his support. “Whatever mistakes he might have done in the past, the philanthropic work that he has done is proof of the fact that he is a good person,” said Amit Singh, one of the fans.
On Thursday, the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate (Jodhpur Rural) Dev Kumar Khatri had sentenced Khan to five years in jail and fined him Rs 10,000 for killing two blackbucks in Kankani village, near Jodhpur, in October 1998. The court acquitted all the other accused — actors Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Neelam and Sonali Bendre; and Dushyant Singh, a resident of the area.
According to the prosecution, on the night of October 1, 1998, Khan was in a vehicle when he spotted a herd of blackbucks — an endangered animal and included in Schedule-I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 — in Kankani village and killed two of them.
Members of the Bishnoi community said they would oppose the decision of the court. “We will study the judgment and will oppose the bail along with the acquittal of the other five accused,” said Bishnoi community leader Ramniwas Budhnagar.