Mumbai: A Jodhpur court on Thursday convicted actor Salman Khan in a 19-year-old blackbuck poaching case, sentencing the actor to five years in jail and a fine of Rs 10,000. Salman, 52, was found guilty of violating wildlife laws by killing a blackbuck, an endangered species of antelope, in 1998 during the shooting of a film. Four other actors and co-stars, who were accused in the case, were acquitted by the court.
The 52-year-old actor has been sent to the Jodhpur Central Jail for killing two blackbucks in October 1998. Following the court verdict in the case, Anand Desai, Salman's legal counsel, said although they respected the court's verdict, the decision 'came as a surprise' as the actor had been acquitted in the previous cases which had the same facts as in this one.
"We respect the decision of the Hon'ble Court. While we are studying the judgement, it just came as a surprise, as the entire investigation, and facts of this case were the same as those for which Salman has been acquitted by the Hon'ble High Court of Rajasthan in two cases, and even by the Hon'ble CJM in the Arms Act matter for the alleged offence on the very same night as is the subject matter of the present case," Desai said in a statement.
"Also, in the present case, the Hon'ble Court has acquitted all the 5 co-accused which would imply that Salman was out hunting alone in the middle of the night in a remote area outside Jodhpur. We have preferred an appeal to the Hon'ble Sessions Court and applied for an urgent hearing today," he added.
According to Desai, the sessions court will hear the appeal for suspension of the sentence/ bail at 10.30 am on Friday.
Trade analyst Komal Nahta too tweeted the official statement given by Desai on his Twitter handle. Check out his post:
Official statement by Salman Khan’s lawyers: pic.twitter.com/n9o5XQwTmS
— Komal Nahta (@KomalNahta) April 5, 2018
Four other Bollywood actors accused in the case - Saif Ali Khan, Neelam, Tabu and Sonali Bendre and a local Dushyant Singh were acquitted by the court on 'benefit of doubt'.
As the sentence is more than three years, Salman will have to appeal to the Rajasthan High Court for bail. This is his fourth stint in the Jodhpur Central Jail. He has earlier spent a total of 18 days in the jail in 1998, 2006 and 2007, all for cases of poaching.
Held guilty under Section 9/51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, he had faced a maximum punishment of six years behind bars. Salman shot and killed the blackbucks, from the antelope family, in Kankani village near Jodhpur in October 1998 during the shooting of the film 'Hum Saath Saath Hain'.
Here are the documents from the court proceedings in the Salman Khan's blackbuck poaching case:
All the actors were in a Gypsy that night with Salman in the driving seat. He spotted a herd of blackbucks and killed two of them, the lawyer said. All the accused, some of them accompanied by their family members, were in the courtroom when the verdict was read out.
In the meantime, several celebrities from the film fraternity came in support of the actor while expressing disappointment with the court's verdict.
Rajya Sabha MP Jaya Bachchan said that the actor should have been given relief for his humanitarian work. "I feel bad. He should be given relief. He has done a lot of humanitarian work," Bachchan said.