Salman Khan gets 5-year-jail, defence says decision surprising; Bishnoi community hails verdict, Bollywood sad

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New Delhi: Bollywood actor Salman Khan was on Thursday sentenced to five years imprisonment by a Jodhpur court for killing two blackbucks during a film shoot in Rajasthan in 1998. The court also slapped him with a fine of Rs 10,000. Khan was then taken to Jodhpur Central Jail for the night. The court also acquitted all the other accused including Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Neelam and Tabu; citing lack of evidence. The actor was found guilty under Section 9/51 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 for killing the endangered blackbuck species, hunting of which is prohibited by law.
As the sentence is more than three years, Salman will have to appeal in a higher court for bail. His lawyer, Anand Desai, said the sessions court will hear the appeal for suspension of the sentence/bail at 10.30 a.m. on April 6. Salman has consistently denied shooting the two deer, as claimed by the prosecution.
*What defence says
Salman Khan’s lawyer Anand Desai said that although they respected the court’s verdict, the decision “came as a surprise” as the actor had been acquitted in the previous cases which had the same facts as in this one.
“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,” he said in a statement.
*Salman in same jail as Asaram
Salman Khan who is lodged in the same jail as Asaram Bapu and Rajastan lynching accused Shambhulal Regar has been given number 106 and is lodged in ward number 2. “He was made to undergo medical test & has no medical issues. He hasn’t made any demands. We’ll give him jail uniform tomorrow. Multiple-layer security has been put up for his ward,” Vikram Singh, Jodhpur DIG told.
In his written judgment, Chief Judicial Magistrate Dev Kumar Khatri said, “The accused is a popular actor whose deeds are followed by people. Despite this, the accused hunted two blackbucks.”
*Bishnoi community hails verdict
The Bishnoi community in Rajasthan expressed satisfaction with the conviction of Salman but they were disappointed over the acquittal of Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Neelam and Sonali Bendre. “We’ll analyze the judgement. We want an immediate appeal to be filed against those who have been acquitted,”Rampal Bhawad, State President, Bishnoi Tigers Vanya Evam Paryavaran Sanstha told ANI.
Chogaram Bishnoi, a member of the community, told reporters that he had seen Khan stopping his jeep and shooting the two blackbuck deer in a village near Jodhpur in October 1998. Khan and the other actors were in the area filming a movie and decided to go hunting.
Back in 2006, a trial court in Jodhpur had convicted Khan in two of the poaching cases and he was sentenced to five years of imprisonment along with a fine of Rs 25,000. After spending a few days in judicial custody, Khan had appealed against the decision of the trial court which finally led to his acquittal by the Rajasthan High Court in 2016.
The Hindi film industry erupted with outrage and concern as Salman was sentenced to five years in jail, with many of his colleagues stressing that the successful actor had been punished because he was a star, and just a few pointing out that justice had been delivered.
Actor-turned-politician and Rajya Sabha MP Jaya Bachchan expressed sadness over Salman Khan verdict and said, “I feel bad. He should be given relief. He has done a lot of humanitarian work.”
“We are happy for us but we are disappointed for Salman Khan. Justice has not been given properly in this case. I am feeling bad for him,” said Samir Soni, actor and husband of actress Neelam.
Animal rights activists welcomed the sentencing, and some said Salman should have been given the maximum punishment under the Wildlife Act. “We are happy that justice has prevailed and a serial offender is behind bars. The judiciary has once again proved that the popularity of the accused has no bearing on the case before the court,”said Gauri Maulekhi of People For Animals.
After learning about Salman Khan’s guilty verdict in the blackbuck poaching case, filmmaker Sajid Nadiadwala on April 5 cancelled the success party of Baaghi 2. We also hear Sajid is on his way to Jodhpur to lend support to Salman. “I am extremely shocked,” director Subhash Ghai, who has worked with Khan in several films, tweeted.
In a conversation with indianexpress.com, Ashish Chowdhry, who is a close friend of the Khan, said, “I woke up to this shocking news. And whatever our personal feelings are about the judgement, law of the land has to be respected and I know that Salman and his family do so like all of us. Salman is a great human being and though he may have done few mistakes in the past, talking in terms of this case which he has got convicted for 5 years after a 20-year trial, it is harsh! But none the less I know best things happen to best people and I have a strong feeling that after the bail plea on April 6, we will hear something good! I only wish strength to him and the family.”
Mawra Hocane posted on Twitter: “In a world with no “NO” human rights, a great human being is being punished for killing an animal umpteen years ago under animal rights. Bash me all you want, but there’s something completely wrong about it.. mind you such human beings are our saving grace! #SalmanKhanVerdict.”
According to prosecution lawyer Mahipal Bishnoi, the actors were in a Gypsy that night with Salman in the driving seat. He spotted a herd of blackbucks and killed two of them, Bishnoi says. However, Salman’s lawyer said that the fact that the court has acquitted all the 5 co-accused, “would imply that Salman was out hunting alone in the middle of the night in a remote area outside Jodhpur.”
The case was under the national spotlight with the media monitoring every development, his legion of fans tuned into social media and television and trade analysts watching anxiously to know the fate of the star who has an estimated Rs 600 crore riding on his next ventures — “Race 3”, “Bharat” and “Dabangg 3”.
Salman also had a jail stint in Mumbai when he was also involved in a hit and run. His white Toyota Land Cruiser allegedly crashed into American Express Bakery at Hill Road at Bandra in Mumbai, killing one person and injuring four on September 28, 2002. He was acquitted in the case but the Maharashtra government has filed an appeal.
Courtesy: Indian Express

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