After a long wait of 18 years, Salman Khan, 50, has been acquitted in the Chinkara and Blackbuck poaching cases. The actor was accused of killing the animals, both protected species, in two separate incidents in September 1998, while shooting for Sooraj Barjatya’s ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’ in Rajasthan. These animals are considered as endangered animals protected under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
The actor had filed an appeal in the Rajasthan high court after the sessions court failed to provide him any relief against the trial court’s decision sentencing him to one year and five years’ imprisonment in two separate cases of killing of the endangered species.
However, the Rajasthan HC in Jodhpur observed that the prosecution has failed to prove that a deer had even died as no carcasses were found. The HC held that the pellets recovered from chinkara carcasses were not fired from Salman’s licensed gun. The High Court observed, “There was no evidence to prove that the animals that were found dead were shot by Mr Khan's licensed gun”. Moreover, the police also couldn’t zero in on either the weapon used for the alleged hunt or the place where it took place.
The driver of the jeep that was used by Salman Khan and his co-stars for their alleged hunt has been missing, thus eventually weakening the prosecution's case against the bollywood star.
However, the state government can still appeal to the Supreme Court to over-rule today's decision. The Rajasthan state government, meanwhile, also indicated that it would appeal against the high court verdict. The state prominent Bishnoi community, which reveres the animal and is the original complainant in the case, may also challenge the decision. According to Mahipal Bishnoi, the lawyer for the community, “we can go to the Supreme Court against this verdict”. In 2007, Salman had spent a week in jail in Jodhpur before being granted bail. A third case about Salman’s alleged poaching is yet to be decided in Rajasthan.