Salman gets 5 yrs jail in blackbuck case

Actor to seek bail on Friday

Salman gets 5 yrs jail in blackbuck case

A trial court in Jodhpur on Thursday convicted actor Salman Khan in the two-decade-old blackbuck poaching case and sent him to five years in prison.

However, five others, including his co-stars Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Sonali Bendre and Neelam, and a local travel agent Dushyant Singh, were acquitted. Salman was facing charges under Section 9/51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act.

Chief Judicial Magistrate Dev Kumar Khatri, after hearing both the sides, pronounced the verdict and convicted the actor on the basis of the evidence gathered against Salman from DNA fingerprinting report, postmortem report of the blackbuck and an eye-witness, Chogaram.

While reading out the seven-page operative part of the 200-page judgement, the magistrate called the actor a "habitual offender".

The order stated: "Salman Khan is not any regular actor, he is a star who has a huge fan following. His fans imitate him and it becomes his responsibility not to break any law".

Hence, the actor has been convicted, while the others have been given the benefit of the doubt, Judge Khatri ruled.

Salman was also fined Rs 10,000. The actor has been convicted under Section 51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, which carries a maximum punishment of six years and a minimum one-year jail term.

Sources said soon after the actor was convicted, his sisters broke down while Salman preferred to remain silent. All the accused, Salman's sisters Alvira and Arpita, defence counsel, the public prosecutor and some staff were present in the courtroom.

Salman's lawyer Hastimal Saraswat immediately moved a bail application before the Sessions Court after the quantum was pronounced. But Judge Ravindra Kumar Joshi refused to hear it and listed it for Friday at 10:30 am.

"It was our humble appeal to the judge to consider him as a common man. We argued for a shorter quantum of sentence. We were hoping that he gets a sentence of fewer than three years so that we could apply for a bail right here," Saraswat told DH.

Earlier in the day, the 52-year-old actor arrived in the court around 11:15 am in his "lucky" black shirt and blue jeans, which proved unlucky this time.

Salman's bodyguard Shera, often called Salman's shadow, escorted him into the courtroom.

Around noon, within 30 minutes after the hearing, the judge convicted Salman and acquitted the other stars.

The quantum of punishment was delivered around 2 pm after the lunch break. Salman was then taken into police custody and his medical examination was conducted at the Mahatma Gandhi Hospital. Later, he was taken to the Jodhpur Central Jail.

The case dates back to October 1998 when Khan, Saif, Neelam, Tabu and Sonali went on a hunting expedition in Kankani and killed two blackbucks. The actors were in Rajasthan to shoot for Hindi film 'Hum Saath Saath Hain'.

The blackbucks were killed near a village of Bishnois, a community that revers the blackbuck and is passionate about protecting the animal. Blackbucks are an endangered species and hunting them is prohibited under the Wildlife Protection Act.

The actor was also charged with keeping arms with an expired license and was charged under the Arms Act. He was acquitted in the case by a trial court in January 2017.

There were two more cases against Salman for killing two chinkaras (Indian Gazelle) but the actor was acquitted by the Rajasthan High Court in July 2016. The prosecution has challenged his acquittal, which is pending before the Supreme Court.

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