Many of Salman Khan’s fans will be distressed with the court pronouncing the star guilty and sentencing him to a year in prison in the black buck poaching case.The star has been convicted under the Wildlife Protection Act on charges of killing two chinkaras, a deer species, at Bhavad village in Jodhpur, Rajasthan in 1998. Chief Judicial Magistrate BK Jain has sentenced Khan to one-year imprisonment, which will come into effect next month, and fined him Rs 5,000. Seven other accused in the case, including comedian Satish Shah, were acquitted in the case.As this is a suspended sentence, the actor has ample time to appeal against the verdict.
It was one of the four cases filed against the actor for poaching endangered animals. Salman was charged with hunting chinkaras during the night of September 26-27, 1998 when he was in Jodhpur for the shooting of filmamaker Sooraj Barjatya’s ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’. Salman and some other actors starring in the film were booked by the Rajasthan Forest Department on charges of poaching of endangered animals. Besides Shah, those acquitted in the case were Kuldeep Singh, Mohd Hussain, Yashpal Singh, Mahendra Pal Singh alias Rajubana, Dushyant Singh and M S Bhati.In other cases, co-accused include film stars Saif Ali Khan, Neelam, Tabbu and Sonali Bhendre. All of these film stars along with Salman have been summoned by the court on February 20 for framing of charges.
This conviction comes at a time when the evidence in the case looked weak as 10 out of 31 witnesses had turned hostile. Also, the lone eyewitness, the driver of the gypsy that was allegedly used during the hunt, has been missing for over two years.
Salman’s family is visibly surprised at the verdict and plans to file an appeal against it. “We have full faith in the justice of the country and in the law. I think the lawyers will go for appeal. This is not the last word on this,” said Salim Khan, Salman’s father.But for now the immediate task for the actor will be damage control in Bollywood, which has almost Rs 100 crore riding on him.
Undoubtedly, controversies and the Bollywood beefcake have never been too far apart. On September 28, 2002, Salman Khan was charged with killing a man and injuring four others in an incident of rash driving in Mumbai. The accident triggered off a storm of protests against him. He has made it to the headlines for roughing up scribes, manhandling his ex-girlfriend Aishwarya Rai, entering into a tiff with Shah Rukh Khan and Abhishek Bachchan on film sets and verbally assaulting Vivek Oberoi.
Fortunately or unfortunately, his acts of misdemeanor have not marred his popularity and Salman continues to have a huge fan following – not too surprising, as most celebrities involved in legal battles have come out unscathed in terms of their popularity.
Salman made a phoenix-like rise after the controversy related to the hit-and-run case, beginning with Satish Kaushik’s Tere Naam, released in 2003.This was followed by a guest appearance in Ravi Chopra’s super hit Baghban in the same year. Though the film centered on the Bollywood icon, Amitabh Bachchan, Salman was a big hit with fans for his goody-goody role. In 2004, Salman’s Mujhsey Shaadi Karogi did brisk business and in 2005, lady luck smiled on him again with his films No Entry and Mainey Pyaar Kyun Kiya shining at the box office.
In the black buck poaching case, Salman has a month to appeal the verdict. If he fails to obtain bail, those most affected would be the directors currently working with him. According to Salman’s secretary Vikas Kapoor, the actor is involved in projects worth Rs.1 billion. His upcoming films include Salaam-E-Ishq: A Tribute to Love, Babul, God Tussi Great Ho, Hum Ko Deewana Kar Gaye and Janeman