Jodhpur: In a big setback for Salman Khan, a Jodhpur court on Thursday found him guilty under Section 9/51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act in a blackbuck poaching case while acquitting all other actors accused – Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Neelam and Sonali Bendre. The Bollywood superstar was sentenced to five years in jail and fined Rs 10,000.
The 52-year-old actor will now spend at least one night in jail before his legal team can move a bail application on his behalf.
Salman was visibly emotional after the verdict was announced and was seen hugging his two sisters. Scenes outside the Jodhpur court though showed mixed emotions with fans reiterating their support for him while close to a hundred members of Bishnoi community – who rever blackbucks – celebrated.
Salman and the other Bollywood stars had been accused of poaching two blackbucks – an endangered animal – in Bhagoda ki Dhani in Kankani village near Jodhpur on October 2, 1998, during the shooting of the movie ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’. Public Prosecutor Bhawani Singh Bhati had said that all of them were in a Gypsy car that night, with Salman in the driving seat. He also said that when Salman spotted a herd of black bucks, he shot at and killed two of them.
Salman’s counsel, however, had said that the prosecution had engaged in tampering and fabricating evidence as well as roping in fake witnesses to prove its case.
While Salman was charged under Section 9/51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, the other actors had been charged under Section 51 read with Section 149 (unlawful assembly) of the Indian Penal Code.
The conviction of Salman would not only come as a big blow to the actor and his fans but to Bollywood as well – especially because there are several film projects in the pipeline which involve the superstar. He has been busy shooting for Remo D’Souza’s Race 3, a film which is scheduled to hit theatres on June 15 on the occasion of Eid. Besides Race 3, Salman has Atul Agnihotri’s Bharat to be directed by Ali Abbas Zafar in his kitty. And after Bharat, Salman was scheduled to begin shooting for the third instalment of blockbuster franchise Dabangg co-starring Sonakshi Sinha.