Salman Khan, one of India’s biggest stars, is guilty of killing blackbucks while on a film shoot in Rajasthan 20 years ago, a court said today, calling him a “habitual offender”. The 52-year-old actor was charged with hunting the rare antelopes while filming “Hum Saath Saath Hain” in 1998. His co-stars in that movie, Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Sonali Bendre and Neelam have been acquitted.
What the prosecutors say:
“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,” Public Prosecutor Bhawani Singh Bhati said.
“But on being spotted and chased, they fled from the spot leaving the dead animals there,” he said, adding that there was adequate evidence against them.
Salman Khan’s defence
Denying these allegations, Salman Khan’s counsel H M Saraswat denied allegations by the prosecutor. He said there were several loopholes in the prosecution’s story and it had failed to prove its case beyond any doubt.
“Prosecution has failed to prove the allegations. It engaged in tampering and fabricating evidence and documents as well as roping in fake witnesses to prove its case,” he said. “It even failed to prove that the blackbucks were killed by gunshots. Hence, such investigation cannot be trusted,” Saraswat said.
Who is involved in the case?
Bollywood actors Sonali Bendre, Saif Ali Khan, Tabu and Neelam are involved in this case, while Salman Khan is the main accused. It also involved two more accused, Dushyant Singh, who was allegedly accompanying the actors when the poaching took place, and Dinesh Gawre, said to be Salman Khan’s assistant.
The forest department recovered the carcasses of blackbucks after the poaching incident. A forensic report also confirmed that the blood samples obtained from Salman Khan’s car matched with the blackbucks.
The blackbuck is a species of antelope native to the Indian subcontinent. Since 2003, it has been listed as near threatened by IUCN and considered an endangered species in India. It is protected under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972
On October 2, 1998, a police complaint was filed against the five actors Salman Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam for allegedly killing two blackbucks while they were shooting for the movie Hum Sath Sath Hain in Rajasthan’s Jodhpur.
Salman Khan has also been accused of killing two chinkaras and a blackbuck in September 1998. In all, three cases of poaching and one under the Arms Act were registered against Salman Khan in 1998.