Salman Khan Convicted: All You Need to Know About the 20-year-old Blackbuck Poaching Case
Salman Khan was accused of killing two blackbucks in Bhagoda ki Dhani in Kankani village near Jodhpur on the intervening night of October 1-2, 1998, during the shooting of Hum Saath Saath Hain. Other actors accused in the case are Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam Kothari.
File photo of Salman Khan. (Image: PTI)
New Delhi: A Jodhpur court has convicted Bollywood superstar Salman Khan in the 1998 blackbuck poaching case, while other actors — Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Sonali Bendre and Neelam Kothari — have been acquitted. Salman has been convicted under Section 51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, which carries maximum punishment of six years and minimum one-year jail term.
Here's all you need to know about the case:
How did it all begin?
Twenty years ago, actors Salman Khan, Tabu, Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre and Neelam were shooting for the movie Hum Saath Saath Hain in Rajasthan, when Salman Khan allegedly shot two blackbucks in Kanakani village in Jodhpur on the night of October 2, 1998.
It was a case of alleged poaching which took place near an area inhabited by the Bishnois, a traditional community committed to protect the endangered animal and which remains vigilant against poachers in the area.
The prosecution has alleged that after hearing the gunshots, the Bishnoi villagers chased a Gypsy in which the actors fled, leaving the carcass behind. The case rests on the primary witnesses, the Bishnoi villagers.
Why was Salman Khan charged?
Salman Khan was charged in two separate cases, one for poaching and the other for offences under the Arms Act. Blackbucks are among the endangered animals listed in the Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972, and cannot be hunted. Hunting them is a criminal offence under the Act, and is punishable with a fine and/or imprisonment of up to three years.
But wasn’t Salman Khan acquitted recently?
There are four cases associated with the poaching incident. Here’s a look:
Case 1 – Bhawad Chinkara Poaching: On September 27, 1998, Salman Khan allegedly hunted a Chinkara on the border of Bhawad village in the outskirts of Jodhpur.
Status of the Case: On February 17, 2006, the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate sentenced him to one-year rigorous imprisonment. Salman Khan had approached the Rajasthan High Court for quashing of the sentence, bypassing his chance to appeal in immediate higher court of District Judge.
Case 2 - Ghoda Farm Poaching Case: On the night of September 28, 1998, Salman Khan allegedly hunted two Chinkaras near Ghoda Farm area in Osian region of Jodhpur.
Status of the Case: On April 10, 2006, Salman Khan was sentenced to five years rigorous imprisonment. Khan approached the District Judge against the decision, but his appeal was rejected and the sentence upheld, following which the actor appealed in the High Court with Revision Petition.
On July 25, 2017, Judge Nirmaljeet Kaur discharged Salman Khan in both Ghoda Farm and Bhawad Chinkara poaching cases.
Case 3 – Arms Act Case: A .32 revolver and .22 rifle was recovered by forest officials and police allegedly from Salman Khan’s hotel room after the poaching cases were registered against him. The weapons were seized on October 15, 1998 while Salman Khan’s arm license had already expired on September 22, 1998.
Status of the Case: The court acquitted Salman Khan in January 2017. The Rajasthan government had appealed against the judgment in District Judge Court.
Case 4 – Kankani Black Buck Poaching Case: On October 2, 1998, Salman Khan allegedly hunted two blackbucks. His co-stars Tabu, Sonali Bendre, Neelam and Saif Ali Khan are co-accused in the case and face charges of incitement.
Status of Case: Trial court to deliver verdict on April 5. The total number of witnesses in the case is 52.
Main Arguments Before Trial Court
The primary basis of the case will be whether the prosecution was able to prove that Khan and others killed the blackbucks. HM Saraswat, Salman Khan's lawyer has argued that there has been a “false and malicious campaign” to target the actor and that the only weapons in his possession were air rifles, which cannot kill a deer and that the eyewitness statements were botched-up. Khan's lawyer had also shown a video to the court purportedly showing how the witnesses signed on blank papers.
What did Rajasthan HC observe while acquitting Khan of all charges?
The Rajasthan HC verdict by Justice Nirmaljit Kaur raised questions on the evidence against the actor and overruled the judgement of a Sessions Court which had sentenced the actor to one and five years of imprisonment in the two cases back in 2006.
Justice Kaur noted that the place where the killing took place was never found, that the blood stains discovered did not match with that of the killed deer, the Chinkara carcass wasn't found, the weapon used for hunting was also not found and that even the vehicle examined did not corroborate the statement of the prosecution.
Has Salman Khan been in jail till now for any of these cases?
So far, Salman Khan has spent 18 days in Jodhpur Jail. He was arrested by the Forest Department on October 12, 1998 and court had imprisoned him till October 17. When the trial court had pronounced 5-year imprisonment on April 10, 2006, Khan spent six days in jail. When the Sessions Court confirmed the sentence in Ghoda Farm case, Khan remained in jail from August 26 to 31, 2007.
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