Salman Khan acquitted in 18-year-old chinkara poaching cases

The Jodhpur bench of the Rajasthan High Court on Monday, July 25, acquitted Salman Khan in two separate cases of chinkara poaching, 18 years after the incident was reported. The court observed that the pellets that killed the endangered animals were not fired from the actor's gun.

Justice Nirmaljeet Kaur pronounced the verdict giving the Bollywood superstar “the benefit of doubt,” a PTI report stated. The Court had reserved its decision after completing the hearing in last week of May.

Cases had been registered against the ‘Sultan’ actor under section 51 of Wildlife Protection Act for poaching of two chinkaras in village Bhawad on September 26, 1998 and one in Mathania (Ghoda Farm) on September 28, 1998.

Salman was accused of killing the endangered animals, along with seven others including Saif Ali Khan and Sonali Bendre, when they were shooting for Sooraj Barjatya’s 1998 film ‘Hum Saath Saath Hai’ in Rajasthan.

The trial court had convicted him in both the cases and had sentenced him to one year and five years of imprisonment on February 17, 2006 and April 10, 2006 respectively. Salman was jailed for nearly a week in 2007 for killing an endangered Indian gazelle. The actor challenged the conviction in the sessions court which transferred the appeal to the High Court which began hearing in the cases November 16, 2015 and were completed on May 13, 2016.

Arguing the case in the high court, defence counsel Mahesh Bora had contended that the actor 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. Harish has been missing and wasn’t available for cross-examination, and hence his statements could not be relied upon, advocate Bora argued. 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 Salman.