Salman Khan, one of India’s biggest stars, was sentenced to five years in jail for killing two blackbucks while on a film shoot in Rajasthan 20 years ago. The 52-year-old actor has also been fined Rs 10,000 for hunting the rare antelopes in forests near Jodhpur while filming “Hum Saath Saath Hain” in 1998. Twenty years of taxpayer’s money got wasted on a simple blackbuck case. Fine is even more laughable. Are there no performance criteria for law-upholding entities? Instead of a jail term, he would have been penalised with some huge amount of penalty that can be used for wildlife protection causes. Putting him in jail will be a big loss of already suffering economy of India. Sanjay Dutt, who was convicted for illegal possession of weapons connected with the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts which took away the lives of 200 people, got five years of imprisonment and here, after two decades of killing an animal, Salman is sentenced for five years.
Anyway, the case has not ended here, as his bail request will be heard on Friday. His co-stars in the movie — Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Sonali Bendre and Neelam Kothari have been acquitted for lack of evidence. Over the course of years, the case has taken numerous turns. When Salman was first questioned about being seen by two people shooting the blackbuck, the actor outrightly denied the allegations and also said that the jeep he was using had no blood stains or hair of the blackbuck, as claimed by the investigating team. Salman Khan and his co-stars denied going for hunting at that night. The forensic report that Salman referred to, was challenged by the forest department itself and an FIR was lodged against Dr Nepalia (doctor who filed the first forensic report in the case) for diluting the case.
There were four separate cases registered against Salman Khan. On September 27, 1998, Salman allegedly hunted a Chinkara on the border of Bhawad village in the outskirts of Jodhpur. The following day, on September 28, 1998, Salman Khan allegedly hunted two Chinkaras near Ghoda Farm area in Osian region of Jodhpur. Later, on October 2, 1998, Salman Khan hunted two blackbucks and his co-stars Tabu, Sonali Bendre, Neelam and Saif Ali Khan were subsequently named co-accused in the case. The fourth case against Salman was under the Arms Act. A .32 revolver and .22 rifle were recovered from Salman’s hotel room after the poaching cases were registered against him. The weapons were seized on October 15, 1998, while Salman’s arm license had already expired on September 22, 1998.
On July 25, 2017, Judge Nirmaljeet Kaur discharged Salman Khan in both Bhawad Chinkara and Ghoda Farm poaching cases. Salman was also acquitted in the Arms Act case in January 2017 but, the Rajasthan government in the District Judge Court has appealed against the decision. While, Salman was first convicted in the blackbuck case back in 2006 with five years of imprisonment, the sentence was later suspended on August 31 of the same year. Ten years later, on July 25, 2016, the Rajasthan High Court acquitted him of all charges. The state’s government appealed to the Supreme Court challenging the decision of Rajasthan High Court, and Salman Khan was issued a notice by the Supreme Court that fast-tracked the state government’s petition.
Let 20 years be wasted but finally it seems that “Equality before law” (Article 14) ceases to exist when the matter comes to pronounce a verdict against rich people like Salman. Affluent and the honchos of the country get away with the cloth piece, which covers the eyes of law and justice. It took 20 years to pronounce a verdict; such is the pitiful conditions of our courts when it deals with cases related to celebs.
In the blackbuck poaching case, which has taken almost two decades to come to a seeming conclusion, Salman was charged under Section 51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act while the other actors were charged under Section 51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act read with Section 149 (unlawful assembly) of the Indian Penal Code.
The reason behind the acquittal of the other stars may be because of the difficulty in furnishing any evidence linking Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Neelam and Tabu to the killing of the blackbucks. Apart from Salman Khan, who was booked for killing endangered species, the rest were charged with unlawful assembly. Their intention of killing blackbucks could not have been established in the court of law. Salman Khan, being the man who was accused of pulling the trigger, was in a more precarious position than any of his Hum Saath Saath Hain co-stars who could just claim of being present in the situation without knowing what was happening. Establishing a pre-planned motive by all the five actors is where the prosecution seems to have fallen short. The acquitted four stars’ counsel would have argued in favour of the right to form assembly or association. While ‘unlawful assembly’ denotes the congregation of three or more people with the intention to disturb the law and order, the intention needs to be proven in the court for the judge to pronounce them guilty.
Now, just watch how many voices will be heard about social justice and judicial discrimination, the ruling government, against minorities, etc. However, he will find a way out somehow; even when a human being was killed, he managed to escape!