A JODHPUR court on Thursday sentenced actor Salman Khan to five years in jail for killing two black bucks in Kankani village, near Jodhpur, in October 1998. The court of Chief Judicial Magistrate (Jodhpur Rural) Dev Kumar Khatri acquitted all the others accused in the case — actors Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Neelam and Sonali Bendre, and Dushyant Singh, a resident of the area. “After the court convicted Khan under Section 9/51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, he was sentenced to five years imprisonment along with a monetary fine of `10,000,” said Mahipal Bishnoi, counsel for the Bishnoi community. “We had asked for maximum punishment available under the provisions of the Act, which is six years, but the court sentenced him to five years. From the beginning, our case was strong because of watertight evidence and the fact that the witnesses stuck to their statements,” he said. He said the prosecution’s main argument was that Khan was a habitual offender. According to the prosecution, on the night of October 1, 1998, Khan was driving a Gypsy when he spotted a herd of black bucks in Kankani village and killed two of them. The other accused were with him in the vehicle. The actors were shooting for the film, Hum Saath Saath Hain, in the area. Black buck is an endangered animal and included in Schedule-I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
Shortly after the sentence was pronounced on Thursday, the actor was taken to the Jodhpur Central Jail. His lawyers have filed a bail application, which is expected to be heard on Friday. “We have appealed against his conviction and have also applied for bail. We had argued that when the Gypsy in question was searched for the first time, bullets weren’t recovered and only bloodstains were found. The bullets were recovered after a few days when the vehicle was searched once again,” said Hastimal Saraswat, who appeared for Khan. “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,” Khan’s lawyer, Anand Desai, said in a statement. “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. We have preferred an appeal to the Hon’ble Sessions Court and applied for an urgent hearing today. The Hon’ble Court will hear the appeal for suspension of the sentence/ bail at 1030 tomorrow,” said the statement. In 2016, the Rajasthan High Court had acquitted Khan in two other poaching cases. The actor was accused of hunting two chinkaras in Mathania, near Jodhpur, on September 26, 1998, and another chinkara at Ghoda Farms, in the same area, two days later.
In 2006, a trial court in Jodhpur had convicted Khan in the cases and sent him to jail. The Rajasthan government’s appeal against the High Court’s decision is currently pending in the Supreme Court. In January last year, the chief judicial magistrate’s court in Jodhpur acquitted the actor in another case in which he was charged under Sections 3/25 and 3/27 of the Indian Arms Act. This is Khan’s fourth stint in the Jodhpur Central Jail, which also houses Asaram Bapu, accused of sexual assault; Shambhulal Regar, accused of hacking a Muslim labourer last December; and former Rajasthan MLA Mahipal Maderna, an accused in the Bhanwari Devi murder case. “Khan is being kept next to Asaram Bapu’s barrack. The cell is built for four-five people, but Khan is being kept alone. There’s a fan in the room and dinner was served at 5 pm today,” said a jail official. He sad security has been stepped up around the barrack. Criminals associated with gangster Lawrence Bishnoi, who had earlier threatened the actor, are also lodged in the same jail.