New Delhi: It came as a huge relief for Bollywood’s ‘Sultan’ Salman Khan when the Rajasthan High Court on Monday acquitted him in two poaching cases. However, the actor was not present in court when the verdict was announced in Jodhpur, Rajasthan.
What was the actor accused of?
The actor along with seven others was accused of killing a blackbuck and a chinkara in two separate incidents near Jodhpur. One of the animals was killed at Bhawad on the outskirts of Jodhpur on September 26, 1998, and the other at Ghoda Farms on September 28, 1998. The incidents allegedly happened when the actor was shooting for Sooraj Barjatya’s family drama, ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’.
What happened prior to Rajasthan HC’s acquittal decision?
Two separate cases had been registered against Salman Khan under Section 51 of Wildlife Protection Act for poaching two chinkaras in village Bhawad on 26-27 September, 1998 and one chinkara in Mathania (Ghoda Farm) on 28-29 September, 1998.
The trial court convicted Salman in both the cases sentencing him to one year and 5 year imprisonment on February 17, 2006 and April 10, 2006 respectively.
The convictions were then challenged by Khan in the sessions court, which dismissed appeal in Mathania’s case and transferred appeal to High Court in Bhawad’s case, where already two appeals by the state government had been pending.
Rajasthan HC’s decision
Appeals of Salman against sentences in the two cases relating to poaching of chinkaras in Bhawad and Mathania was allowed by the High Court which acquitted him in both the cases.
Hearing on both these petitions in High Court had begun on November 16, 2015 and completed on May 13, 2016, after which justice Nirmal Jit Kaur had reserved her judgement.
What went in Salman’s favour?
The court held that the pellets recovered from the chinkaras were not fired from Khan’s licensed gun and the driver of the jeep that was used by Khan and his co-stars on their alleged hunting mission has been missing, weakening the prosecution’s case against the movie star.
Defence counsel Mahesh Bora had contended that Khan had been falsely framed in these cases, merely on the statements of a key witness Harish Dulani, the driver of the vehicle, who was never available to them for cross-examination and hence his statements could not be relied upon in convicting Salman of the felonies. He also argued that both of these cases have been not been built on material but circumstantial evidences and that there were no eyewitnesses against Khan.
Even though the actor has had quite a journey from being the Bollywood ‘bad boy’ to ‘Being Human’, the Rajasthan government is likely to move the Supreme Court against the High Court verdict in the case.