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  Entertainment   Bollywood  06 Apr 2018  Blackbuck poaching case: Salman Khan sent to 5 years in jail

Blackbuck poaching case: Salman Khan sent to 5 years in jail

THE ASIAN AGE. | SANJAY BOHRA
Published : Apr 6, 2018, 6:18 am IST
Updated : Apr 6, 2018, 7:15 am IST

Actor Salman Khan held guilty of killing 2 blackbucks in 1998; bail hearing today.

Salman Khan walking towards jail after his conviction on Thurday (Photo taken by cell phone)
 Salman Khan walking towards jail after his conviction on Thurday (Photo taken by cell phone)

Jaipur: Law caught up with Bollywood superstar Salman Khan after 20 years on Thursday when a court in Rajasthan found him guilty of killing two blackbucks in 1998 and sentenced him to five years’ imprisonment. The court acquitted Salman’s four co-accused and actor — Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Neelam and Sonali Bendre — for lack of evidence.

Following the sentencing, tears rolled down Salman’s cheeks and his sisters Alvira and Arpita, who were also present in the court, broke down. Salman was taken into custody by the police inside the court premises after the verdict, and taken to Jodhpur jail. There he was allotted 106 as prisoner number and lodged in barrack number 2, a heavily protected and secure area that also houses religious preacher Asaram Bapu, who has been accused of rape. Salman has filed a bail application in a sessions court which is likely to be heard on Friday.

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Chief judicial magistrate Dev Kumar Khatri, while sentencing Salman and slapping a fine of Rs 10,000, said, “The accused is a popular actor whose deeds are followed by people. Despite this, the accused hunted two blackbucks.”  

While demanding the maximum punishment of six years for the actor, the prosecution called Salman, 52, a habitual offender, a charge strongly objected to by Salman’s lawyer.

The actor’s lawyer sought leniency saying that Salman had been acquitted by higher courts in two similar cases and had been involved in social service.

The court, however, rejected the plea saying, “There has been a rise in poaching incidents, so leniency is not justified given the severity of the crime, the evidence and the circumstances.”

Stargazers, media crews and security personnel swarmed the court premises and were lined along the two-km route from the court as the actor was whisked away in a Bolero police jeep to spend a night in jail.

This is his fourth stint in Jodhpur Central Jail. He earlier spent a total of 18 days in the jail in 1998, 2006 and 2007, all for cases of poaching.

Apart from the Kankani village case, in which he was sent to jail on Thursday, two separate cases were registered against Salman for poaching of two chinkaras in village Bhawad on September 26, 1998, and one chinkara in Ghoda Farm on September 28, 1998. In Bhawad and Ghoda Farm cases, he was acquitted by the Rajasthan high court on July 25, 2016. On January 18, 2017, Salman was acquitted in the Arms Act case related to the alleged poaching.

The first post-mortem report had cited asphyxiation as the reason of death for one chinkara, while the other was said to have died due to injuries from a fall into a ditch. The prosecution had challenged the report on the ground that it had no mention of gun injury. A medical board was constituted which confirmed that both the chinkaras had died from bullet injuries.

On Thursday, Salman was held guilty under Section 9/51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, which carries a maximum punishment of six years. Blackbuck is an endangered animal and included in Schedule-I of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

The actor shot and killed the two blackbucks in Kankani village near Jodhpur on the night of October 1, 1998, during the shooting of the film, Hum Saath Saath Hain.

All the actors were in a Gypsy SUV that night with Salman in the driving seat. He spotted a herd of blackbucks and killed two of them, the prosecution lawyer said.

The Kankani case was the strongest case against Salman with four witnesses. In Ghoda farm and Bhawad cases there was only one witness who changed his statement.

The four witnesses — Chhogaram, Poonam Chand, Sheraram and Mangilal — had  chased Salman after hearing gunshots on the night of the incident. Also, the villagers handed over bodies of the blackbucks to the forest department which arrested Salman on October 2, 1998.

Members of Rajasthan’s Bishnoi community, which reveres blackbucks, pursued the case against Salman in court. On Thursday, community members expressed happiness but vowed to file appeals against the acquittal of other accused.

Animal rights activists welcomed the decision. “The verdict shows, whether you are Salman Khan or an ordinary citizen, the facts will be heard by a court and the law will prevail,” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India spokesperson Sachin Bangera said.

The Hindi film industry erupted with outrage with many of Salman’s colleagues stressing that the actor had been punished because he was a star. Just a few said that justice had been served.

Tags: blackbuck poaching case, salman khan, saif ali khan, jodhpur jail
Location: India, Rajasthan, Jaipur