The Jodhpur sessions court will decide whether Bollywood actor Salman Khan would have to spend more time in jail or be released on bail in the blackbuck poaching case of 1998 on Saturday. Hearing Khan’s bail plea on Friday, Jodhpur District and Sessions Court Judge Ravindra Kumar Joshi had reserved his judgment until Saturday. A day before, a Jodhpur court had convicted the Bollywood star for killing two blackbucks, an endangered species, 19 years ago while shooting for the film Hum Saath Saath Hain, and sentenced him to five years in jail.
The other co-accused in the case — actors Tabu, Saif Ali Khan, Neelam and Sonali Bendre — were acquitted of all charges.
Meanwhile, judge Joshi. who was scheduled to hear the actor’s bail plea in the blackbuck poaching case, has been transferred by the Rajasthan High Court, along with 87 other district judges. So, it is uncertain whether the actor will get a relief in the coming days or not. The judge had asked for more documents, such as files of previous cases heard by Rural and High Courts before taking a decision on the actor’s bail plea.
Salman Khan’s case was presented in the sessions court on Friday by senior advocate Mahesh Bora, who came with a 51-page bail application. He said the witnesses’ statement should not be trusted in the case and argued that the actor should be given the benefit of the doubt. He also questioned why only Salman Khan had been convicted and all other co-accused acquitted.
The Bollywood actors accused in this case allegedly went hunting on October 1-2 in 1998 outside a forest reserve near Kankani village in Jodhpur while shooting for Hum Saath Saath Hain.
Highlights of Salman Khan’s bail plea hearing
The Jodhpur sessions court judge on Saturday heard Salman Khan’s bail plea and decided to pass order bail after lunch. This was after the prosecution read out the eyewitness account before the judge and said the rural court’s verdict should not be suspended. The eyewitness account proves Salman Khan’s crime, the Prosecution read.
Ahead of the hearing, Salman Khan’s sister Alvira and his long-time bodyguard Shera were at the court. Hundreds of fans also thronged outside the Jodhpur sessions court, hoping the actor would get bail today.
Here are the top 10 developments so far in the blackbuck poaching case in which Salman Khan has been sentenced to five years in jail:
1. Judge hearing Khan’s plea transferred: The District and Sessions Judge Ravindra Kumar Joshi, who was scheduled to hear the actor’s bail plea in the blackbuck poaching case, has been transferred by the Rajasthan High Court along with 87 other district judges. Joshi was scheduled to take a decision on Saturday on the bail plea filed by the actor in Jodhpur Sessions Court .
2. Second post-mortem report of blackbucks nailed Salman Khan
The second post-mortem report of the two blackbucks played a key role in proving that the animals had died of gunshots, as the trial court, while convicting Salman Khan, mentioned that it has been proved beyond doubt that the Bollywood superstar had shot them. The medical board report stated that there were holes, one inch in diameter, in the bones of blackbuck carcasses and this could be caused by shots fired from a gun. Relying on this report, the trial court refused to admit the argument of the defence that the hole had been made by the investigator using a charred piece of coal just to establish the story of poaching and frame Salman in the case.
3. All quiet on the Bollywood front as Salman spends another night in jail: Salman Khan on Friday spent a second consecutive night in a cell of the Jodhpur central jail, A few of his Twitter-savvy colleagues, meanwhile, ventured online to voice their support for the ‘Sultan’ of Bollywood, arguably the industry’s most saleable star. Yesterday, director Subhash Ghai, actor-politicians Jaya Bachchan and Raj Babbar, besides actors Varun Dhawan, Arjin Rampal and Samir Soni were among the people backing Salman, after his conviction in the case. Today, there was an online silence from the biggies of the industry. However, some of his friends and colleagues did visit the actor’s family at their home in Mumbai’s Galaxy Apartments.
But most big stars, including Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar, active on social media and known for articulating their views, stayed quiet.
4. Salman spends a restless night in Jodhpur jail: Salman Khan spent another restless night in Jodhpur central jail and was being given no-frill meals without any concessions for his star status. Salman was given sprouts and milk for breakfast after a late night, said Deputy Inspector General (jails) Vikram Singh on Friday. The star was given Hindi newspapers by the jail administration in the morning on his request. Salman met his lawyers and bodyguard Shera before the bail hearing in the district and sessions court.
5. Brand Salman in peril: Khan has been the brand ambassador for Thums Up, Revital, Wheel, Suzuki Motorcycles, Yatra.com, Dixcy Scott, Splash and Relaxo, besides a few others, including his home brand ‘Being Human’. But with all the controversies surrounding him over the past few years, most brands have been a bit circumspect in using him as their face in the market. As it is, while SRK (Tag Heuer, Airtel, Videocon, Nerolac, Emami, Hyundai, Pepsodent, Dish TV, Big Basket, etc) and Aamir (Vivo, Samsung, Tata Sky, Coca-Cola, Titan, Snapdeal, etc) always endorsed classier and more upmarket brands, Khan somehow had to remain content with middling to average offerings in the market. Thums Up was his most prominent endorsement but there too he got replaced by Ranveer Singh. Despite his superlative success on the big screen, somehow ad agencies and brands shied away from Salman. He was a successful brand but a flawed brand.
6. What happened in Jodhpur sessions court on Friday? Judge said jail term fair given Salman Khan’s clout, gravity of offence: Chief Judicial Magistrate Dev Kumar Khatri, in his 201-page verdict, said that since the culprit was an actor and had a substantial following, his actions were observed and followed by the masses.
“The accused (Salman Khan) is a popular actor whose deeds are followed by people. Despite this, the accused hunted two blackbucks. It is not justified to give Salman Khan the benefit of probation in view of the manner in which he hunted by shooting two innocent, moot black bucks that come under the purview of the Wildlife Conservation Act,” the verdict said.
Khatri said that, “considering the rising number of cases of illegal hunting of wildlife animals, looking at the circumstances of the case and gravity of the offence, giving the benefit of Probation of Offender Act does not appear justified.”
The prosecution said, “we wanted maximum punishment”
Mahipal Bishnoi, counsel for the Bishnoi community, had said on Thursday, “After the court convicted Khan under Section 9/51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, he was sentenced to five years imprisonment along with a monetary fine of Rs 10,000. We had asked for maximum punishment available under the provisions of the Act, which is six years, but the court sentenced him to five years. From the beginning, our case was strong because of watertight evidence and the fact that the witnesses stuck to their statements.”
More report sought: According to reports, the sessions court has sought a detailed report on the blackbuck poaching case from the trial court.
False statements? During the hearing, Salman’s counsel argued that the witnesses’ statements were not reliable and had discrepancies. To this, the public prosecutor retorted that the council must then prove these statements wrong.
7. Salman Khan gets death threat from local gangster: A Punjab-based gangster, Lawrence Bishnoi, on Friday threatened to kill Bollywood actor Salman Khan.
The notorious gangster was brought to a Jodhpur local court on production warrant. While being taken into the police vehicle, Bishnoi said he would kill Khan in Jodhpur itself. On the reported threat to Khan by the gangster, Jail superintendent Vikram Singh said: We are thinking of keeping him with some other prisoners from tomorrow so that he is not alone considering the threat to him.”
Jodhpur police had arrested Bishnoi for his involvement in twin cases of firing. He was again arrested by the police for his involvement in the murder of Vasudev Israni, an electronic businessman from the city.
8. Rs 5 bn worth of Salman Khan films hang fire: Salman Khan, sultan of the Rs 1 billion box-office club, might just be dethroned. He is slated to star in four major films over the next two years — Race 3, Dabangg 3, Kick 2 and Bharat. While the last three are in pre-production stages, Race 3 is in production in the UAE. Trade analysts said Rs 4-5 billion is riding on these films, which might be affected by his sentencing.
Khan has starred in some of Bollywood’s most successful films, the latest being Tiger Zinda Hai (2017), which made Rs 3.39 billion in India.
“It is too early to say if the projects will be shelved or whether Salman (Khan) will be replaced with another actor. If he gets bail and is allowed to finish the immediate projects, then at least Race 3 will release on the announced date,” said a trade analyst.
9. Animal rights activists welcome Salman conviction: Animal right groups on Thursday welcomed the sentencing of Bollywood star Salman Khan in a 1998 blackbuck killing case, asserting the verdict proved no one was above the law, while a section of activists said the actor should have been given the maximum punishment under the Wildlife Act.”The verdict shows, whether you are Salman Khan or an ordinary citizen, the facts will be heard by a court and the law will prevail,” PETA India spokesperson Sachin Bangera said. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), People For Animals (PFA), Wildlife SOS and Humane Society were among the groups that welcomed the verdict.
10. Salman convicted because he’s a Muslim, says Pak FM: Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif linked the sentencing of Salman Khan in the blackbuck case with the actor’s religion and said he has been sentenced “because he’s a minority”. In an interview with Hamid Mir of Pakistan’s Geo TV, Asif said, “Salman Khan has been sentenced because he’s a minority. To sentence him in a case that is twenty years old goes on to show that lives of those who are Muslims, ‘untouchables’ or Christians are not valued in India.” “Maybe if he belonged to the religion of the ruling party of India he would not have been given such a harsh sentence and the court might have been lenient with him,” he claimed.
Supports pours in for Salman Khan on Twitter: Latest trend on Twitter and Facebook is #IStandWithSalmanKhan. A Twitter user said, “Without Salman Khan, Bollywood is like banjar zameen (barren land).” Another user said Salman is known for his generosity nothing should happen to him.
“It’s simply wrong for him to suffer for something that has not even been done by him,” the user added.
His fans have also been circulating messages across social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp. Here is one such message that is being widely circulated:
Salman Khan bail discussion on Quora: Salman Khan, whose movies convert into billions of currency notes, has a mass fan following. Khan is one of India’s biggest and most popular film stars. Despite the controversies and accusations of bad behaviour, Khan’s fan base has remained loyal – in fact, it has kept growing steadily and the hits have kept coming. Most of his followers believe he will get bail because of his kind nature. Here’s what they have been discussing on Quora: