Bollywood star Salman Khan was today convicted and sentenced to five years of imprisonment by a Jodhpur court in the 1998 blackbuck poaching case. The trial court also imposed Rs 10,000 fine along with five years of imprisonment on the Bollywood actor.
Salman, 52, was taken to the Jodhpur Central jail from the court premises in a police vehicle, police officials said.
As the sentence is more than three years, Salman will have to appeal in higher court for bail.
This is his fourth stint in the Jodhpur Central Jail. He had earlier spent a total of 18 days in the jail in 1998, 2006 and 2007, all for cases of poaching.
Salman was accused of killing two blackbucks in Jodhpur during the shooting of the movie ‘Hum Sath Sath Hain’ in 1998.
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Meanwhile, four others actors – Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam – who were co-accused in the case on grounds of 'benefit of doubt'.
A fifth person, Dushyant Singh, a local from the area, has also been acquitted, said Mahipal Bishnoi, the prosecution counsel.
Reacting to the trial court's verdict, Salman's lawyer Anand Desai said,"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 10:30 am tomorrow."
On the night of October 1, 1998, Salman allegedly went on a shooting expedition with Saif, Neelam, Sonali and Tabu, and is believed to have killed two blackbucks in Jodhpur’s Kankani village.
A case was later filed against Salman and other actors after the local Bishnoi community carried out protests.
Salman has been charged under Section 51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act as hunting of blackbucks is prohibited under the Wildlife Protection Act.
The final arguments in the case were completed in a Jodhpur rural court on March 28. Chief Judicial Magistrate Dev Kumar Khatri had reserved the judgment for April 5 thereafter.
"All of them were in a Gypsy car that night, with Salman Khan in the driving seat. He, on spotting a herd of blackbucks, shot at and killed two of them," Public Prosecutor Bhawani Singh Bhati had said.
"But on being spotted and chased, they fled from the spot leaving the dead animals there," he said, adding that there was adequate evidence against them.
During the hearing in June 2017, Salman had told the court that the blackbuck had suffered a natural death and that he was being falsely implicated in the case. “Only the first forensic report of Dr Nepalia saying that the animal died of ‘natural causes’ was true and the rest of the evidence is false,” he had said.
This is last of the three poaching cases against Salman. He was convicted in the last two cases by the Jodhpur trial court, but was later acquitted by the Rajasthan High Court.
Earlier in January 2017, the Bollywood star was acquitted in the Arms Act case by a Jodhour court on grounds of “insufficient evidence”. The case pertained to possessing an unlicensed .22 rifle and a .32 revolver and using them to kill the two blackbucks.
Jeev Raksha Bishnoi Sabha has protested against the decision of acquitting the other accused stars.
Their acquittal will be challenged in the high court, said Shivraj Bishnoi, state president of the organisation.
Video: Salman Khan sentenced to five years in jail in blackbuck poaching case