The Thursday morning indeed turned out to be a flop show for both Bollywood’s Bhaijaan and his admirers, as a Jodhpur court has pronounced Salman Khan guilty, sentenced him to a five-year jail term and levied a penalty of Rs 10,000 on him in the 1998 blackbuck poaching case.
The two-decade old legal proceeding also had other accused actor- Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam Kothari and a local resident, Dushyant Singh, who have been acquitted by the court because of lack of evidence earlier on Thursday. As Salman’s bail hearing in the Sessions Court got posted for Friday, he was taken to the Jodhpur Central Jail soon after the Chief Judicial Magistrate Dev Kumar Khatri declared the decision.
Advocate Asim Sarode stated, “Salman can get a bail in this case. In cases like animal killing, many accused have been acquitted before, as such cases are not considered seriously. This case became a complicated one as Salman Khan is the accused and secondly, it has hurt the feelings of the Bishnoi community. It was surprising for me that why this trial took 20 years to deliver the verdict.”
According to the reports, in October 1998, during the shooting of Sooraj Barjatya’s ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’, the Bollywood superstar Salman Khan was held guilty of killing two blackbucks (endangered species), hunting of which is prohibited under the Wildlife Protection Act, at Kankani village in Jodhpur. In the same year, three more cases were filed against him referring to poaching and the Arms Act as he was also charged for keeping an arm under an expired arms licence. Though, the court had let him walk free in the Arms Act case in January 2017.
Other than the blackbuck poaching case, Khan, who is currently working on four movies — Race 3, Bharat, Dabangg 3 and Kick 2, was also charged for allegedly killing two chinkaras or Indian gazelle in Bhawad and another in Mathania, both in Rajasthan. The Rajasthan High Court acquitted him in 2016.
While the ‘Sultan’ actor is charged under Section 51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, other accused were put on trial under Section 51 read with Section 149 (unlawful assembly) of the Indian Penal Code.
Advocate Abbas Kazmi expressed, “Salman has to appeal to the higher court for bail. The proceeding might take 2-3 days. This is a delayed verdict and such cases generally go to the district court and then the high court.”
Earlier in February 2006, he was convicted in the blackbuck hunting case, got slapped with a penalty and was awarded five years in jail. He spent a week in a Jodhpur jail before a bail was granted to him.
On Thursday’s trial, the prosecution called Salman Khan a ‘habitual offender’ and appealed for maximum punishment. Opposing that, the B-town star’s lawyer said that he has previously been acquitted from the higher courts and also highlighted his involvement in social service.
Blackbucks are considered sacred to the Bishnois, a tribe in Rajasthan. The Bishnoi Sabha committed to protect blackbucks, have been fighting for action against the star for all these 20 years. After Thursday’s order, they have also decided to appeal against the other acquittals.
Though, Salman’s conviction and sentencing by the trial court has upset many of his fans and while it has got a mixed response from the tinsel town, the Bishnoi community welcomes the judgement as justice delayed, but not denied!
Salman Khan’s lawyer Anand Desai has released a statement saying, “We respect the decision of the Hon’ble Court. It just came as a surprise, as the entire investigation, and facts of this case were the same as those for which Salman has been acquitted by the Hon’ble High Court of Rajasthan in two cases.” “Also, in the present case the Hon’ble Court has acquitted all the five co-accused which would imply that Salman was out hunting alone in the middle of the night in a remote area outside Jodhpur,” the statement added while confirming the Friday’s bail hearing schedule.
Actor Alok Nath said, “I am not aware of legal technicalities, but as per the law we have to accept whatever the verdict is. He is sentenced to a five-year jail term but he can always appeal to the higher court for bail.”
Another case involving Salman Khan that got much public exposure is the 2002 hit and run case. He had allegedly run over a group of people who were sleeping on the pavement in front of a suburban bakery, killing a man and injuring others.
Controversies have never let the ‘bad boy of Bollywood’ walk alone. Be it his personal life or court cases, the Bollywood superstar Salman Khan has always managed to hit the headlines. Now, the Sessions Court’s Friday’s judgement will tell whether his stardom will manage to give him some relief or he will be sent back to the jail as per the verdict!