Bollywood actor Salman Khan was on Monday acquitted by the Rajasthan High Court in two cases related to poaching of Chinkaras in Jodhpur in 1998.
The court held that the pellets recovered from the Chinkaras were not fired from Khan's licensed gun.
The driver of the jeep that was used by Khan and his co-stars on their alleged hunting mission has been missing, weakening the prosecution's case against the movie star.
Khan, 50, was jailed in 2007 for nearly a week for shooting an endangered gazelle in 1998.
Appeals of Khan against sentence in the two cases relating to poaching of Chinkaras in Bhawad and Mathania was allowed by the high court which acquitted him in both the cases.
Justice Nirmal Jit Kaur rejected the plea of the state government against the actor.
Two separate cases had been registered against Khan under section 51 of Wildlife Protection Act for poaching of two chinkaras in village Bhawad on 26-27 September, 1998 and one chinkara in Mathania (Ghoda Farm) on 28-29 September, 1998.
The trial court (CJM) had convicted him in both the cases sentencing him to one year and 5 year imprisonment on February 17, 2006 and April 10, 2006 respectively.
The convictions were challenged by Khan in the sessions court, which dismissed appeal in Mathania’s case and transferred appeal to high court in Bhawad’s case, where already two appeals by the state government had been pending.
Hearing on both these petition in high court had begun on November 16, 2015 and were completed on May 13, 2016, after which justice Nirmal Jit Kaur had reserved her judgement.
While arguing the case in the high court, defence counsel Mahesh Bora had contended that Khan had been falsely framed in these cases, merely on the statements of a key witness Harish Dulani, the driver of the vehicle, which was allegedly used in poaching in both these cases.
Bora argued that Dulani was never available to them for cross examination and hence his statements could not be relied upon in conviction of Khan. He also argued that both of these cases have been built on circumstantial evidences and there was no eye-witness or any material evidence against Khan.
Besides this, the major observation by the court was that it did not find the pellets recovered from the vehicle matching with those, recovered from the possession of Khan.
Defence also strongly argued that these pellets had been planted since they were not found in the vehicle during forest department’s inspection and were found there surprisingly by the police later.
Similarly, the defence also argued that Khan was not in possession of weapons allegedly used in poaching and were brought to Jodhpur from Mumbai only on demand of the forest department. Also, it was argued that the pellets produced belonged to air gun, which has no capacity at all to kill an animal.
In its reply, the prosecution counsel K L Thakur had argued that Dulani was present in the court twice but the defence did not examine him.
Thakur citing the statements of the co-accused, tried to prove the case by corroborating the statements of Dulani, though, some of them had turned hostile in the court later.
Citing the FSL report of the blood stains taken from Hotel Aashirwad, where the carcass said to have been taken by Khan in first case and the blood socked soil from the spot of poaching in second case, Thakur tried to prove that it was chinkara’s blood.
Prosecution also produced the FSL report of the tyre marks of the vehicle in question in second case and maintained that out of 6 samples, 4 matched proving that it was the same vehicle, which had gone on spot of poaching.
Photograph: PTI Photo