Actor Salman Khan, who was today found guilty of smuggling the endangered blackbuck and sentenced to five years in prison, will very likely apply for bail and also appeal against this verdict in the Rajasthan high court, just like he successfully did in his previous two related faiths, which were then overturned.
Today’s case was the last of four cases against the actor related to the 1998 poaching incident in Jodhpur. Three cases – including today’s – were to do with violations of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, and a fourth was for an Arms Act violation. (He was acquitted in the fourth case last year in January).
The actor was earlier convicted and sentenced to prison in two of three poaching cases by a trial court. The two cases were related to poaching Chinkara. (Today’s third poaching case was to do with blackbuck.)
Two separate cases had been registered against the actor under section 51 of the Wildlife Protection Act, for poaching of two chinkaras in Bhawad village on September 26-27, 1998, and one chinkara in the Mathania area on September 28-29, 1998.
The trial court sentenced Salman in both the cases, sentencing him to one year and five years in prison on February 17, 2006, and April 10, 2006, subsequently.
These convictions were challenged by Salman in the sessions court, which dismissed the appeal in the Mathania case and transferred to the Rajasthan high court the appeal in the Bhawad case. Two appeals by the Rajasthan government were already pending in the high court.
Hearing on both these petitions in the high court was completed on May 13, 2016, after which justice Nirmal Jit Kaur reserved her judgement.
While arguing the case in the high court, 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, which was allegedly used in poaching in both these cases.
Bora argued that Dulani was never available to them for cross examination and hence his statements could not be relied upon in Salman’s conviction. He also argued that both cases have been built on circumstantial evidences and there was no eye-witness or any material evidence against the actor.
In July 2016, the Rajasthan high court in its judgment on Salman’s appeal, overturned his conviction to acquit him. The court decided that the pellets that killed the endangered animals were not fired from the actor’s licensed gun. The prosecution’s case was weakened because of the missing driver Dulani.