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Five-year jail term for Salman Khan

Tuesday 11 April 2006

Special Correspondent

Court holds him guilty of killing rare animal; lawyer says he will appeal against verdict

JAIPUR: Bollywood star Salman Khan was sentenced to five years’ rigorous imprisonment by a court in Jodhpur on Monday and sent to the Central Jail after being held guilty of killing a chinkara, a protected species of gazelle. The heart-throb of cinemagoers was also fined Rs. 25,000 following his conviction under the Wildlife Protection Act.

A visibly shaken Salman Khan, who was present in the court when Chief Judicial Magistrate Brijendra Kumar Jain pronounced the judgment, was immediately taken into custody, bundled into a police van, and despatched to the jail. The actor is likely to remain behind bars for at least two days, as an application seeking bail and suspension of the sentence can be filed only on Wednesday, with Tuesday being a public holiday on account of Mahavir Jayanti.

The 40-year-old actor was sentenced to a one-year jail term by the same court on February 17 this year in a case of poaching of black bucks, though the sentence was suspended for a month.

Monday’s sentence has been awarded in connection with the killing of a chinkara at Ghoda farmhouse near Mathania on the night of September 28, 1998, when Salman Khan was in Jodhpur shooting for Suraj Barjatya’s film "Hum Saath Saath Hain’’.

Actors Saif Ali Khan, Neelam, Tabu and Sonali Bendre are co-accused in one of the four poaching cases registered against Salman Khan, in which the final judgment is yet to be delivered. Comedian Satish Shah was acquitted in the case of poaching of black bucks in Bhawad village in the February 17 verdict.

The Chief Judicial Magistrate, convicting Salman Khan under Section 51 of the Wildlife Protection Act on Monday, also sentenced co-accused Govardhan Singh — who was a guard at Ghoda farmhouse — to one year’s rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 5,000. Four other accused — Bal Angre, Pratap Singh, Om Singh, and Dushyant Singh — were acquitted.

Salman Khan’s counsel Hastimal Saraswat said he would file an appeal against the judgment in the Sessions Court and affirmed that his client’s case was "strong on merit’’. The Bollywood actor has already appealed against the February 17 judgment.

The court has also convicted Salman Khan under Section 143 (member of an unlawful assembly) of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced him to three months’ imprisonment under this provision. Both prison sentences will run concurrently.

The CJM had on April 7 rejected Salman Khan’s application seeking summoning of the main witness in the poaching case, Harish Dulani, who was absenting himself from court appearances for several years.

He had reportedly retracted his earlier statement that he had seen the actor killing the animal.

According to the prison authorities in Jodhpur, Salman Khan would be kept in an ordinary cell like other prisoners and would not be given any special treatment. In the history of environmental laws, this is one of the few instances where a strong punishment has been awarded for killing an endangered animal.

The Wildlife Protection Act provides for a sentence up to seven years and a fine up to Rs. 25,000 for killing endangered animals such as black buck, gazelle, antelope and chinkara, which are protected under Schedule I of the Statute. Such harsh punishment is normally given to habitual poachers and illegal traders in elephant tusks and tiger skins.

The Ghoda farmhouse case was registered against Salman Khan and others under Sections 143, 144, 148 and 201 read with Section 149 of IPC, Section 51 and 52 of the Wildlife Protection Act and Section 27 of the Indian Arms Act at the Mathania police station on October 11, 1998. The charge sheet was filed in the court on May 14, 1999, and charges were framed on April 14, 2001.

The Bishnoi community in Mathania, which worships black bucks and chinkaras and was primarily instrumental in pressing charges against Salman Khan, has welcomed Monday’s verdict.

Rajasthan Forest and Environment Minister Laxminarain Dave has also hailed the judgment as ``victory of justice’’.

Mr. Dave said the judgment would strengthen the State Government’s efforts to protect wildlife and check poaching, besides sending across a strong signal to the hunters. "No criminal involved in the poaching of wild animals can be above the law,’’ he added.

See online : The Hindu

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