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Pellets not fired from Salman Khan’s licensed gun: HC acquits actor in poaching cases

In a big relief to Bollywood superstar Salman Khan, the Rajasthan High Court today acquitted him in blackbuck and chinkara poaching cases. Salman had appealed before the HC challenging the lower court's verdict that had

India TV Entertainment Desk, Jodhpur [ Updated: July 25, 2016 18:28 IST ]
Salman Khan
Salman Khan

In a big relief to Bollywood superstar Salman Khan, the Rajasthan High Court today acquitted him in the Blackbuck and Chinkara poaching cases and cleared him of all charges.

Salman had appealed before the HC challenging the lower court's verdict that had sentenced him one and five years' imprisonment in the two separate cases of poaching.

The court held that the pellets recovered from the Chinkaras were not fired from Khan's licensed gun.

A separate case in Arms Act is still pending against Salman Khan in Jodhpur court for allegedly carrying and using arms with expired licence during poaching of two black bucks.

The driver of the jeep that was used by Khan and his co-stars on their alleged hunting mission, has been missing, weakening the prosecution's case against the movie star.

The hearing in HC was completed in the last week of May and the decision was reserved by the court.

The actor and seven others were accused of killing a blackbuck and chinkara in two separate incidents in 1998.

In one incident on September 26, 1998, one animal was killed at Bhawad on the outskirts of Jodhpur. Another case was of September 28, 1998 where they allegedly killed endangered animal at Ghoda Farms.

At the time of incident, they were shooting for the film "Hum Sath Sath Hain".

Khan, 50, was jailed in 2007 for nearly a week for shooting an endangered gazelle in 1998.

Appeals of Khan against sentence in the two cases relating to poaching of Chinkaras in Bhawad and Mathania was allowed by the High Court which acquitted him in both the cases.

Two separate cases had been registered against Khan under section 51 of Wildlife Protection Act for poaching of two Chinkaras in village Bhawad on 26-27 September, 1998, and one Chinkara in Mathania (Ghoda Farm) on 28-29 September, 1998.

At the time of incident, they were shooting for the film "Hum Sath Sath Hain".

The trial court (CJM) had convicted him in both the cases sentencing him to one year and 5-year imprisonment on February 17, 2006 and April 10, 2006 respectively.

The convictions were challenged by Khan in the sessions court, which dismissed appeal in Mathania’s case and transferred appeal to high court in Bhawad’s case, where already two appeals by the state government had been pending.

Hearing on both these petition in high court had begun on November 16, 2015 and were completed on May 13, 2016, after which justice Nirmal Jit Kaur had 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 conviction of Khan. He also argued that both of these cases have been built on circumstantial evidences and there was no eye-witness or any material evidence against Khan.

Besides this, the major observation by the court was that it did not find the pellets recovered from the vehicle matching with those, recovered from the possession of Khan.

Defence also strongly argued that these pellets had been planted since they were not found in the vehicle during forest department’s inspection and were found there surprisingly by the police later.

Similarly, the defence also argued that Khan was not in possession of weapons allegedly used in poaching and were brought to Jodhpur from Mumbai only on demand of the forest department. Also, it was argued that the pellets produced belonged to air gun, which has no capacity at all to kill an animal.

In its reply, the prosecution counsel K L Thakur had argued that Dulani was present in the court twice but the defence did not examine him.

Thakur citing the statements of the co-accused, tried to prove the case by corroborating the statements of Dulani, though, some of them had turned hostile in the court later.

Citing the FSL report of the blood stains taken from Hotel Aashirwad, where the carcass said to have been taken by Khan in first case and the blood socked soil from the spot of poaching in second case, Thakur tried to prove that it was chinkara’s blood.

Prosecution also produced the FSL report of the tyre marks of the vehicle in question in second case and maintained that out of 6 samples, 4 matched proving that it was the same vehicle, which had gone on spot of poaching.

The trial of Salman Khan in Arms Act will still continue. Salman's counsel has moved a fresh application in a Jodhpur court seeking all documents pertaining to the prosecution permission given by the then district magistrate Rajat Kumar Mishra in the case.

The next date of hearing in the case is August 3 when Mishra, prosecution witness, will be re-examined by the defence.

Rajat Kuamr Mishra had granted the prosecution permission against Khan under Sections 3/25 and 3/27 of Arms Act.

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