In a huge relief for Bollywood actor Salman Khan, the Rajasthan high court on Monday acquitted him in the Jodhpur blackbuck and chinkara poaching cases.
In 2006, Salman had been convicted by the trial court and handed sentences of one and five years respectively for allegedly poaching three Chinkaras in two separate instances. However, Justice Nirmaljeet Kaur acquitted the actor in both the cases in a 50-page order passed Monday.
Khan was accused of killing a blackbuck and a chinkara in two separate incidents in 1998.
The actor had appealed to the Rajasthan high court challenging a lower court's verdict that convicted him and sentenced him to one and five years in jail for the two cases of poaching.
The high court completed hearing the cases in the last week of May but reserved its decision at the time.
There are two other ongoing cases against the actor in Jodhpur courts, one under the Arms act and another for allegedly poaching a blackbuck. Salman’s lawyer Hastimal Saraswat hailed the HC verdict.
"It finally proves what we had been saying all along. There is no doubt that the police and the forest department fudged and even made up evidence and manipulated witnesses. The HC rejected all arguments made by the presentation,” Saraswat told The Indian Express. He, however, refused to comment on whether the acquittal could likely have an impact on the other cases.
"They are totally separate cases. Some evidence might have been common in all four cases but we are not sure. That could be said only after reading the judgment,” he said. Mahipal Vishnoi, lawyer for the Bishnoi community which revers the animal and was a party to the case against Salman along with the state government, said any decision to appeal the verdict would be taken after examining the order. "We have not received the order yet. Neither has the state government. We will read the order and then decide whether an appeal should be made to the Supreme Court,” he said