(Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Salman Khan has been acquitted in the blackbuck poaching case as well. The headline and the article has been corrected. The error is regretted.)
The Rajasthan High Court on Monday acquitted actor Salman Khan in two separate cases of poaching Chinkara (Indian gazelle), 18 years after the incident was reported. The court decided that the pellets that killed the endangered animals were not fired from the actor's licensed gun, reported PTI.
The high court announced its decision today after reserving its order earlier in May this year. Justice Nirmaljeet Kaur gave the court's decision, reportedly giving Khan "the benefit of doubt".
Times Now reported that both the Bishnoi community and Rajasthan government may challenge the order. It will likely affect the blackbuck poaching case that is still pending against Khan, reported the channel.
Justice Nirmaljeet Kaur gave the court's decision, reportedly giving Khan "the benefit of doubt".
The 50-year-old had been jailed for almost a week in 2007 for shooting the Chinkaras. According to the prosecution, Khan and seven others including actors Saif Ali Khan and Sonali Bendre, killed the two animals in separate incidents in Jodhpur in September 1998. Khan was shooting for the film Hum Saath Saath Hain at the time.
Justice Kaur rejected the plea of the state government against the actor, acquitting him in both cases. Khan was charged under section 51 of the Wildlife Protection Act for poaching of two Chinkaras in Bhawad village on 26-27 September, 1998 and one Chinkara in Mathania (Ghoda Farm) on 28-29 September, 1998. He had been convicted by a trial court in both cases, sentencing him to one and five years' of imprisonment respectively.
Khan appealed in both cases, and the hearing on both these petitions had begun in the high court on 16 November last year and was completed on 13 May this year.
While arguing the case in the high court, defence counsel Mahesh Bora had contended that Khan 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.
Bora argued that Dulani was never available to them for cross examination and hence his statements could not be relied upon in conviction of Khan. 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 Khan.
Besides this, the major observation by the court was that it did not find the pellets recovered from the vehicle matching with those, recovered from the possession of Khan.
(With PTI inputs)