Bollywood star Salman Khan and other actors arrived today in Jodhpur where a court is scheduled to pronounce its verdict in a 1998 poaching case in which he is accused of killing two black bucks. Final arguments of the case were completed in the trial court on March 28, after which Chief Judicial Magistrate Dev Kumar Khatri had reserved the judgment for tomorrow.
All actors, including Salman Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Sonali Bendre and Neelam, will be present in the court for the pronouncement of the verdict. Salman Khan, 52, arrived from Mumbai in a chartered flight. He was earlier in Abu Dhabi for the shooting for “Race 3″.
Bendre, Saif Ali Khan, Tabu and Neelam also reached Jodhpur from Mumbai. Later, a video went viral in which Saif, after arriving here, can be heard using rough language and asking his driver to roll up the car’s window-panes and reverse as a crowd gathers around his vehicle.
Salman Khan was accused of killing two black bucks in Bhagoda ki Dhani in Kankani village near Jodhpur on the intervening night of October 1-2, 1998, during the shooting of “Hum Saath Saath Hain”.
He is facing charges under Section 51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act and the other actors have been charged under Section 51 read with Section 149 (unlawful assembly) of the Indian Penal Code. Maximum punishment under Section 51 is six years.
“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 had 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.
Denying these allegations, Salman Khan’s counsel H M Saraswat 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 black bucks were killed by gunshots. Hence, such investigation cannot be trusted,” Saraswat said. The case 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.
However, prosecutor Bhati says that Gawre never appeared in court and was made to disappear by Salman Khan. Had he been around, there could have been more information available in the case, he said.