A Jodhpur court convicted Bollywood actor Salman Khan earlier today, in the infamous blackbuck poaching case of 1998. The other accused were actors Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Neelam and Sonali Bendre. These actors were acquitted by the court.
Salman Khan who is accused of killing two black bucks had been facing charges under Section 51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act. He allegedly killed the black bucks in Bhagoda ki Dhani in Mathania village near Jodhpur, during the shooting of “Hum Saath Saath Hain”.
Justice Dev Kumar Khatri pronounced the verdict in the 20-year-old case. Contrary to the two-year sentence reported earlier in the day by several media houses, Salman has received a five year jail sentence.This is just one year less than the maximum sentence of six years imprisonment that can be awarded for the section he was charged under. He is definitely going to Jail today.
The deer were poached near a village of Bishnois. It is said that the villagers had rushed out of their homes on hearing the gunshots on that night, and allegedly had seen the actors fleeing in a jeep, and the black bucks lying dead.
Apart from being included in the list of endangered species in India, it is also revered by the Bishnoi community. The Bishnois of Jodhpur consider the black buck to be the reincarnation of their religious Guru Bhagwan Jambeshwar, also known as Jambaji. It is said that they can even sacrifice their lives in order to protect the animal.
Under section 149 of the IPC, the actors were also charged with unlawful assembly.
Khan was also charged with four cases of poaching and also one charge under the Arms Act in Jodhpur in September-October of 1998. His lawyers, however, went on to claim that there was no forensic evidence to show that the black bucks were hunted with guns and died.
“All of them were in a gypsy car that night, with Salman Khan in the driving seat. He, on spotting a herd of black bucks, shot at and killed two of them. But on being spotted and chased, they fled from the spot leaving the dead animals there”, Public Prosecutor Bhawani Singh Bhati was quoted by The News Minute.
Meanwhile, Salman Khan’s lawyer is arguing for a lesser sentence for him, citing the social work done by him. Salman Khan’s NGO Being Human is known for charity works. Also, Khan is said to donate a portion of his earnings on a regular basis. This doesn’t change the charges levelled on him in the black buck case.
In the 2002-hit and run case, the prosecution reportedly failed to prove Salman Khan was drunk while driving. Even though the verdict was a moment of glory for fans of Khan, it went on to prove the glaring disparity that we still have in this country. The gap between the haves and the have-nots, the fact that the famous are above the law, were a reality once again. The acquittal became a perfect subject for meme makers, but went on to mock Indian law on its face.
The PR machinery of the actor made sure the 2002 case was erased from public memory. So while Being Human continued with charity, Khan essayed popular roles like that of Bajrangi in Bajrangi Bhaijan and the rather laughable spy in Ek Tha Tiger, who takes on the ISIS all by himself.
It is disturbing that whenever an actor is about to face a verdict, we talk about the losses it might incur to Bollywood. In the infamous Sanjay Dutt case too, repeated news articles spoke about his unfinished movies. Even now we are talking about Khan’s Race 3, Kick 2, Dabangg 3 and Bharat.
A big budget film is a source of livelihood for many, but that does not mean the judiciary can bend laws.
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