Jodhpur: Bollywood actor Salman Khan was today acquitted by the Rajasthan high court in two cases related to poaching of chinkaras in Jodhpur in 1998.
The court held that the pellets recovered from the Chinkaras were not fired from Khan’s licensed gun. The man who drove the jeep in which Khan and his co-stars went on their alleged hunting mission has been missing, weakening the prosecution’s case.
Khan, 50, was jailed in 2007 for nearly a week for shooting an endangered gazelle in 1998.
Khan’s appeals against sentence in two cases – poaching of Chinkaras in Bhawad and Mathania – was allowed by the high court that acquitted him in both cases.
Justice Nirmal Jit Kaur rejected the plea of the state government against the actor.
Two separate cases had been registered against Khan under Section 51 of Wildlife Protection Act for poaching of two chinkaras in village Bhawad on 26-27 September, 1998 and one chinkara in Mathania (Ghoda Farm) on 28-29 September, 1998.
The trial court (CJM) had convicted him in both cases, sentencing him to one year and five years imprisonment on February 17, 2006 and April 10, 2006 respectively.
Khan had challenged the convictions in the sessions court, which dismissed the appeal in the Mathania case and transferred the appeal in the Bhawad case to the high court, where two appeals by the state government had been pending.
Hearing on both the petitions in the high court began on November 16, 2015 and were completed on May 13, 2016, after which justice Nirmal Jit Kaur had reserved her judgement.
While arguing 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.
Bora argued that Dulani was never available to them for cross examination and hence his statements could not be relied upon to convict Khan. He also argued that both the cases had been built on circumstantial evidences and there was no eye-witness or material evidence against Khan.
The court also observed that the pellets recovered from the vehicle did not match with those recovered from Khan.