Actor Salman Khan was on Thursday sentenced to five years in jail after being convicted in a 19-year-old blackbuck poaching case by a court in Jodhpur.
Chief Judicial Magistrate (Jodhpur Rural) also imposed a fine of Rs. 10,000 on Khan. The actor was taken to the Central Jail in Jodhpur from the court. He has the option of filing an appeal in the Sessions Court, reports our correspondent Mohammad Iqbal from Jodhpur . Unless the sentence is suspended, he will spend the night in jail.
Khan is involved in four cases related to blackbuck/chinkara poaching. He has been accused of killing two chinkaras at Bhavad village in Rajasthan in September 1998, a chinkara at the Ghoda farms in the State the next month and two blackbuck near Kankani village in the State in the same month. In addition, he is also accused of using two firearms with alleged expired licences.
The verdict pertains to the killing of the blackbuck.
'Judgement came as a surprise'
In an official statement, Mr. Khan's lawyer Anand Desai said that the judgement came as a "surprise."
The statement reads:
"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. 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. The Hon'ble Sessions Court will hear the appeal for suspension of the sentence / bail at 1030 tomorrow."
Khan to spend the night in jail
Salman Khan's counsel has moved bail application in the court of Additional Sessions Judge. It will come up for hearing on Friday morning. The actor will spend the night in Central Jail of Jodhpur.
Four actors, Jodhpur resident acquitted
The co-accused, actors Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Sonali Bendre and Neelam, and Jodhpur resident Dushyant Singh have been given the benefit of doubt and acquitted as the evidence against them was not strong enough.
Public prosecutor Bhawani Singh said he would speak to the government on the acquittal of other actors and decide on filing appeals in the Sessions Court.
Quantum of punishment
Khan has been convicted under Section 9 and 51 of the Wildlife Protection Act. The maximum sentence under the law is six years.
If the sentence is for three years or less, the magistrate’s court is likely to suspend the punishment, reports Mohammad Iqbal . If more, Khan will have to move the Sessions Court for bail.
The charge against the other actors was under Section 149 (unlawful assembly) of the IPC. Their acquittal means the court has accepted that there is no sufficient evidence to prove this.
Tight security in court
There was tight security on the court premises. Only lawyers were allowed inside the court. Court proceedings began at 11.15 a.m.
A huge crowd gathered outside the court building to have a glimpse of the actors.
Besides the local police, emergency response teams were deployed outside the court. Rooftop snipers were also deployed.
Actor Salman Khan arrived in the court, followed by Saif Ali Khan, Neelam, Sonali Bendre and Tabu.
After the hearing began, Khan presented pre-order bail bonds, which he had prepared in advance.
Here is a brief timeline of the cases:
September-October 1998: Khan, along with his co-stars of Hum Saath Saath Hain, are accused of killing blackbuck/chinkaras during the shooting of the film.
February 2006 : Khan is convicted under the Wildlife Act and given a one-year jail term for killing two chinkaras at Bhavad in September 1998. This is overturned after an appeal.
April 2006 : A Jodhpur sessions court gives him a five-year-prison term in the second case, where he was accused of hunting a blackbuck in Ghoda farms. He spends three days in jail and gets bail.
June 2006 : A Jodhpur court frames charges against the actors in the third case. The charges were framed against Khan under Section 51 (hunting) of the Wildlife Protection Act and against Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Sonali Bendre, Neelam and Dushyant Singh under Section 52 (abetment) of the Act.
November 2013 : The Rajasthan High Court suspends the five-year sentence.
January 2015 : The Supreme Court sets aside the High Court’s stay on the sentence.
July 2016 : The High Court acquits Khan in the two chinakara poaching cases.
January 2017 : A Jodhpur court acquits Khan in the Arms Case, where he was accused of possessing and weapons with an expired licence during the hunt for chinkaras and blackbuck.
Khan pleads 'not guilty'
Khan had pleaded “not guilty” in the case and claimed that only a forensic report saying that the endangered animal died of “natural cause” was true.
“The rest of the evidence [against me] is false,” Khan said in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate in Jodhpur while recording his statement in the 18-year-old case accusing him of hunting the animals.
Khan killed the deer, says driver
The man who was driving the jeep used by Khan reiterated in 2016 his claim that the actor shot the animal. The statement by Harish Dulani, who was reported to be “missing,” came two days after the 50-year-old actor was acquitted by the High Court in two poaching cases.
(With inputs from Mohammad Iqbal)