The Rajasthan high court on Monday acquitted actor Salman Khan in two cases of poaching, quashing trial court verdicts that had found him guilty of hunting chinkaras, or Indian gazelles, which are a protected species.
Justice Nirmaljeet Kaur said the actor couldn’t be convicted as the prosecution had failed to prove the charges against Khan.
Five points that won the day for the actor:
1. His lawyer said the inspection reports of the Gypsy, the vehicle used by the actor during the alleged hunts -- on September 26, 1998 and two days later – were suspect. The first inspection -- by a forest officer -- mentioned some faded blood-like stains while the second check by the police a day later found hair strands and six pellets. The anomalies made the two reports suspect, Mahesh Bora argued.
2. He also questioned the theory of the use of arms by the actor, arguing the weapons were not with Khan and were in fact later brought from Mumbai. No arms were found when the actor’s hotel room was raided. The prosecution had argued that the actor sent away the weapons to Mumbai after the poaching incidents came to light.
3. None of the witnesses saw the animals being hunted or a carcass being transported by Khan. Then how could Khan be implicated when all other co-accused were let off, the lawyer argued.
4. The high court observed that the pellets recovered from the hotel rooms of Salman Khan and co-actor Saif Ali Khan were not only different from those said to have been recovered from the Gypsy but were also of inferior quality. The pellets were meant for air guns and could not have killed an animal, the defence argued. The court also said the knife allegedly used by Khan to slit the throat and skin the gazelle was more like a pocket knife.
5. The defence also said the main witness, Harish Dulani, was in illegal custody of the forest department and was released on October 14, 1998 after his statement was recorded in front of the magistrate, making it admissible in a court. The FIR in the two poaching incidents was registered on October 11. The statement was coerced out of Dulani and he was planted as a witness against the actor, Bora argued. This was also the reason Dulani didn’t turn up to be examined by the defence, the lawyer said. Dulani was the driver of the Gypsy, a private vehicle, the actor used between September 26 and October 1.