Actor Salman Khan was convicted on Thursday of poaching blackbucks in Rajasthan under Section 51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 by a Jodhpur court. He was sentenced to five years in jail. The other accused in the case, Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Neelam and Sonali Bendre, were acquitted after getting the benefit of doubt.
Salman was found guilty of killing black bucks in Kankani village near Jodhpur on the night of 1 October, 1998, during the shooting of the film Hum Saath Saath Hain. The court, in its verdict, refused to give the benefit of probation to Salman.
The actor approached the Jodhpur Sessions Court on Friday to appeal for bail. The court has reserved its order till Saturday.
Chief Judicial Magistrate Dev Kumar Khatri sentenced the Bollywood superstar to five years in prison for killing two blackbucks, capping a 20-year case that began with a late night safari outside this tourist city on the sidelines of a film shoot in 1998.
Khatri, in his 201-page verdict, said that since the culprit is an actor and has a substantial following, thus his actions are observed and followed by the masses.
"The accused is a popular actor whose deeds are followed by people. Despite this, the accused hunted two black bucks. It is not justified to give Salman Khan the benefit of probation in view of the manner in which he hunted by shooting two innocent, moot black bucks that come under the purview of the Wildlife Conservation Act," the verdict said.
Khatri said that,"... considering the rising number of cases of illegal hunting of wildlife animals, looking at the circumstances of the case and gravity of the offence, giving the benefit of Probation of Offender Act does not appear justified."
He said that the court had reached its decision after careful examination of the examples and evidence presented by the accused's lawyer, but added that "in my opinion, the facts and circumstances presented by them are different from the facts and circumstances of this case. Thus, it is fair to be punished with imprisonment and penalty in accordance with the 9/11 Wildlife Protection Act under the convicted crime. "
The defence had argued that Salman has not been convicted in any case earlier and that he has always appeared before the court on a given date. The defence counsel also said Salman was under the custody of the forest department for five days and he should be given the benefit of the Probation of Offenders Act.
But, the court refused to give Salman the benefit citing the circumstances of the case and gravity of the offence, according to a copy of the judgment. Salman's lawyer had argued in court that the actor had not been found guilty in any of the cases before this. He said that for nearly 20 years, Salman had been facing trials for this case and whenever the court ordered him, he had appeared before it.
Not only this, the lawyer also argued that if Salman is sent to jail, it will affect the livelihood of many related to the film industry. In the light of these facts, the lawyer had requested that Salman be given the benefit of probation law under the Wildlife Protection Act. The prosecution, meanwhile, countered these arguments. "The culprit has hunted two blackbucks. Blackbucks are a wild species on the verge of becoming extinct. His actions also hurt the ecological balance (of the region). "
The prosecution lawyer added: "The accused is a famous artist, who is followed by the general public. Despite this, the accused has hunted two wild animals. "
He said that Salman already has two cases of deer hunting registered against him, in which the court had convicted him. "It was only after the intervention by a high court that he was acquitted."
The actor's case was represented by defence counsel Hastimal Saraswat. The judgment was pronounced by Chief Justice Magistrate Dev Kumar Khatri at a hearing attended by Salman's sisters Alvira and Arpita. The trial of the case was in progress since the last 19 years and the judge had reserved the order after the final arguments on 28 March.
The actor's legal counsel Anand Desai had issued a statement saying, "We respect the decision of the Hon'ble Court. While we are studying the judgment 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 five co-accused which would imply that Salman was out hunting alone in the middle of the night in a remote area outside Jodhpur."
Read the full judgment here:
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Apr 06, 2018 12:17:13 IST