Court acquits Salman Khan in two poaching cases

The HinduActor Salman Khan. Photo: Mohammed Yousuf

The actor has reportedly been given the benefit of doubt.

In a major relief to Bollywood actor Salman Khan who fought a legal battle for 18 years, the Rajasthan High Court on Monday acquitted him in two cases of poaching of chinkaras on the outskirts of Jodhpur in 1998.

The High Court allowed his appeal against the lower court’s judgment convicting him in 2006. Acquitting Mr. Khan of all charges, Justice Nirmaljit Kaur at the High Court’s principal seat in Jodhpur ruled that the evidence on record implicating him in the cases was “grossly inadequate.”
The Chief Judicial Magistrate had sentenced him to imprisonment of one year and five years, respectively, in the two cases and imposed a fine of Rs.25,000 on him. Two separate cases were registered against Salman Khan under Section 51 of the Wildlife Protection Act for hunting of two chinkaras in Bhawad village on September 26-27, 1998 and another chinkara in Mathania on September 28-29, 1998. He was in Jodhpur for shooting of the Hindi movie Hum Saath Saath Hain.

The sessions court dismissed his appeal in the Mathania case and transferred the appeal in the Bhawad case to the High Court in 2007.

Mr. Khan challenged the decision through a criminal revision petition in the High Court.

In its two separate judgments, the High Court said the pellets recovered from the vehicle, in which Mr. Khan was said to be travelling, did not match the ones recovered from his room. In any case, the recovered pellets could be used only for hunting of small animals like a rabbit or a bird.

Besides, there was no recovery of the carcass, no post-mortem and no medical evidence regarding the cause of death.

The court also observed that Harish Dulani, the vehicle driver on whose complaint the case against Mr. Khan and his co-stars shooting for the film was registered, did not make himself available for cross-examination by defence counsel. It expressed doubts on whether Mr. Dulani was an eyewitness to the hunting at all.

State Law Minister Rajendra Rathore said the State government would study the judgment before deciding whether the appeal against it should be filed in the High Court’s Division Bench or the Supreme Court. However, Mr. Khan’s counsel Hastimal Saraswat said the court had rendered justice to “an innocent man.”

However, Mr. Khan is facing trial in another case of poaching of an endangered blackbuck in Kankani village and possession of illegal arms, which is yet to be concluded.

The co-accused in this case are actors Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam, who had accompanied Mr. Khan in the film’s shooting.
Source - The hindu

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