Blackbuck poaching case: Salman Khan bail hearing adjourned
Jodhpur: Bollywood superstar Salman Khan will have to spend at least one more night in Jodhpur Central Jail as his bail hearing was adjourned till Saturday.
Sessions court Judge Ravindra Kumar Joshi told the media that he has reserved the judgment till April 7.
Salman Khan was not present at the sessions court when the judge said he wanted to see the entire case record before deciding whether Khan should be granted bail.
“We argued for bail in the court. Basically the eyewitness is not reliable… the trial court has convicted Salman on the basis of basically just one eyewitness,” Mahesh Bora, a lawyer for Khan, told reporters in Jodhpur.
Earlier, the Bollywood superstar was sentenced to five years prison on Thursday by a Jodhpur court for killing endangered wildlife nearly two decades ago.
Salman Khan has already spent a night at the Jodhpur Central Jail, following conviction. He is kept alone in a cell and is being provided additional security.
Spending a night with criminals
The actor was taken, amid tight security, to the jail, which houses known names like rape-accused Asaram Bapu, Malkhan Singh Vishnoi – accused in Bhanwari Devi murder case – and Shambhu Lal Regar, the man recently arrested for killing a Muslim migrant and filming the act.
Khan, who denied poaching the rare antelopes known as black bucks in 1998, can still appeal his conviction for a crime that has gripped celebrity-obsessed India for decades.
Khan, one of the Indian movie industry’s most bankable stars, wore black sunglasses and a figure-hugging black shirt as he walked briskly from a white SUV to the courthouse flanked by security.
Four other Bollywood stars – Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam Kothari – were also accused of joining the hunting trip but were acquitted for lack of evidence.
Khan, whose legion of fans emulate his distinct hairstyle and fashion, has accused Rajasthan’s forest department of framing him over the black buck case.
His defence lawyers had suggested the black bucks died of natural causes such as overeating, and claimed there was no evidence they had been shot.
Controversial bad boy
The 52-year-old has been dogged by multiple charges since undertaking the infamous hunting safari in protected forest land while shooting a film in Rajasthan.
The Bishnois, a Rajasthani tribe seen as custodians of the region’s wildlife, filed a complaint against the actors.
Khan spent a week in prison in 1998 when first accused of using unlicensed arms to shoot the black buck.
Last year he was cleared by a court over the alleged use of unlicensed guns on the expedition. A higher court is challenging his acquittal.
Khan was also found guilty of killing gazelles on the hunting trip and served a very brief stint in jail in 2006, but was later acquitted on appeal.
Controversy has followed the Bollywood bad boy since he burst onto the silver screen in the 1980s.
He was cleared in 2015 of killing a homeless man in a hit-and-run accident. That decision is now being challenged in the Supreme Court.
Indian courts can often take years – and sometimes decades – to pronounce verdicts.
He was also accused of assaulting a former Miss World and provoked a firestorm in 2016 by saying his workout schedule for a film left him feeling “like a raped woman”.
But the off-screen drama has done little to dampen his appeal.
The actor known as “bhai”, meaning “brother” in Hindi, enjoys a cult-like status with the majority of his devotees, young men who envy Khan for being unmarried at 52.
Bollywood film industry analyst Komal Nahta said the conviction and any jail term would only delay movies but not seriously harm his career.
“He is a superstar whose films guarantee huge box office numbers,” Nahta told AFP. “A jail term might affect a few films that are in the pipeline.”
“These films can wait as they have not yet begun production and at present it would only mean a loss of time rather than money investment.”
Khan remains one of Bollywood’s biggest draws despite his off-screen drama, starring in more than 100 films and television shows.
According to Forbes, he made $37 million in yearly earnings to finish second behind Shah Rukh Khan in the 2017 Bollywood rankings.
Both the Khans are among the top 10 most highly paid actors in the world.
The Bollywood heartthrob’s latest blockbuster “Tiger Zinda Hai” (Tiger is alive) collected some $85 million worldwide.
Bollywood’s heart goes out to Salman Khan
Salman Khan’s conviction has saddened film fraternity members like Jaya Bachchan, Subhash Ghai and Alok Nath, who hope he will get justice in a higher court.
Actor-politician Jaya told the media: “I am feeling bad… The film industry has invested so much on him, they will suffer loss. After 20 years, they are finding him guilty. But law takes its course… What can one say?”
Asked if she sees him get justice in a higher court, Jaya said: “He should… He does a lot of humanitarian work through his organisation Being Human.”
Salman, 52, was found guilty under Section 9/51 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 for killing two blackbucks, an endangered species, hunting of which is prohibited by law. The incident took place in Kankani village near Jodhpur on October 1-2, 1998, during the shooting of Bollywood film “Hum Saath Saath Hain”.
While Salman has been sentenced to five years in prison, four co-accused stars — Sonali Bendre, Saif Ali Khan, Tabu and Neelam — apart from one other local person, were acquitted of all charges.
Ghai tweeted: “I am extremely shocked to hear Salman Khan being convicted… but also having full trust in Indian judiciary which has many other doors to appeal for final justice… Since he (Salman) is most loved person by industry and people for his human reasons too.”
Alok, who has worked closely with Salman in films like “Maine Pyar Kiya” and “Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!”, told a TV channel that it’s “tragic” that such a verdict has come after two decades.
The actor, who played Salman’s father in “Hum Saath Saath Hain” said the conviction is a “sad news” for the film industry.
“It took so long… for a person who has been on tenterhooks over this case for the last two decades, and suddenly there’s this huge punishment. I don’t know what to say,” he said, hoping that Salman’s “battery of lawyers” will appeal for justice in a higher court.
Arjun Rampal felt the law takes its own course and one can’t argue it. He tweeted: “But at this point in time I just feel helpless and my heart goes out to Salman Khan and his family. Reason, cause the last thing Salman Khan is, is a criminal. I feel this is too harsh. I do hope he gets the relief he deserves.”
TV actress Shilpa Shinde, who was in “Bigg Boss 11” — hosted by Salman — raised multiple questions.
She tweeted: “How many tigers have been poached and what’s the status of Justice on that? How many jungles have been cut down in the name of development? Isn’t it leading to wildlife killing? Punishing a good human being is not acceptable.
“Animal poaching is ever-increasing, jungles are cut in the name of urban development, isn’t it leading to wildlife killing? Who will be punished for that?”
Salman’s lawyers have reached out to the sessions court, which will hear the bail appeal on Friday morning. The actor is currently in Jodhpur Central Jail.
His sisters Alvira and Arpita, as well as bodyguard Shera were at the court when the verdict was announced.
Salman’s filmmaker friend Sajid Nadiadwala has also left for Jodhpur to be by his side. Nadiadwala had organised a party here on Friday to celebrate the success of “Baaghi 2”, but now it stands cancelled, a statement said.
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