Salman Khan: The Blackbuck Poaching Case, 1998
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What happened in 1998?
See graphic, ' The Blackbuck case: a summary
Nights spent by Salman Khan in jail, 1998-2007'
1998: Peter Popham’s report in The Independent, UK
In India, a Bollywood superstar is facing prison. The charge: killing an antelope so cherished that one tribe suckles its fawns
A BOLLYWOOD GOSSIP column called Neeta's Natter [in Stardust] once wrote off Salman Khan as the "puny, pony-tailed" boyfriend of a well-known actress. Today, after 10 years in the film business, he is arguably the hottest star in India, certainly one of the top three or four; one of the handful whose name on the credits can make even the silliest, frothiest film a hit.
He's done it by hanging on to the baby face that first brought him fame, then pumping his physique into the Bruce Willis league, and leaving "puny" far behind. The result is a walking contradiction: he has the saccharine smiles, long droopy eyelashes and goofy grins of a baby; but on screen he also manifests the vicious temper, the mean streak and the reckless brutality to go with those awesome pecs. Khan is India's bionic star, perfectly engineered for the modern Bollywood blockbuster; which typically is a sort of smorgasbord, a long, rambling concatenation of Love Story, Oklahoma, Carry on Camping and Diehard 2. He's the dream combination: River Phoenix, Bruce Willis and Norman Wisdom in a single package.
But if Harish Dulani, a jeep driver in the former princely state of Jodhpur, Rajasthan, is telling the truth, the mean streak is coming to the fore.
In September, Salman Khan and a number of other top Indian stars were filming on location in Jodhpur, putting up at the Umeda Bhawan Palace, once the Maharaja's vast and pompous palace, now a magnificent hotel. On the night of Saturday 26 September, according to Mr Dulani's statement, Khan and his co-stars left the hotel at 10pm in a four-wheel drive Suzuki Gypsy, Khan himself driving; accompanying them was Dushyant Singh, a local travel agent and guide and a relative of the former Maharaja, who is now wanted by the police. Equipped with two rifles and powerful searchlights, they drove through the town and out to the south. Here the straggling new suburbs soon give way to flat scrubland, punctuated by fields of powdery, amber-coloured earth.
They drove down the pitted, two-lane highway for several miles, then branched off on to a smaller, rougher road, then broke out into the scrub. The searchlights foraged and quested among the babul, the thorny bushes that infest the semi-desert, and soon they picked up what the party was looking for: a group of chinkara, the diminutive Indian antelope with straight, spiralling horns, a wagging tail and a cry like a sneeze.
Twenty or 30 years ago, these scrublands were full of chinkara, as well as blackbuck, nilghai, hares, peacocks and tortoises. But poaching and loss of habitat have cut the number of all the wildlife here drastically: now there may only be a thousand or so chinkara left in the world, all of them living in unprotected areas such as this.
Chinkara and blackbuck are as rare and endangered as India's other beleaguered living treasures, such as the tiger, the one-horned rhino and the Asiatic lion. Like them, they are in Schedule One of India's list of endangered species; anyone caught poaching them is liable to a maximum of six years in prision, under the Wildlife Protection Act. Unlike the poachers of tiger and rhino, however, which are confined to reserves and national parks, the Indian deer hunter does not have to contend with forest wardens who are armed and frequently shoot to kill. And chinkara and blackbuck are not hard to hunt: thanks to the tender treatment they receive from the Bishnoi, a community of farmers who live in these parts, they are virtually tame. Frozen in the searchlight, they make a simple target. They are also said to be very good to eat.
A short distance out into the wild the group spotted a chinkara. Salman Khan took a rifle from the bag, aimed and fired. The wounded animal ran; Khan leaped from the car and chased it on foot and shot it again. When it collapsed, someone took a knife and cut the deer's throat, draining the blood, while the animal uttered its dying wail.
Soon afterwards two more chinkara were spotted. Khan shot again, wounded one of them, then jumped out and slit its throat while the deer struggled and cried and finally died. They took the two carcasses back to Jodhpur, where staff at a hotel were roused from their beds and obliged to clean and cook them for the party.
If any of the villagers in the area of the hunt heard anything that night, they kept quiet about it. Likewise, the guide, the driver, the hotel staff and the cook. The party, again led by Khan, went out hunting again and again: on the 27th, the 28th, the 30th. No-one breathed a word. These, after all, are the kings of Bollywood, India's new maharajas, and they do as they please. By day Khan strolled around the Umeda Bhawan Palace topless, baring his glorious torso; management implored him to cover up but he ignored them. By night he and his friends hunted. Who could deny them? Who would have the courage to stop them?
They must have begun to feel invulnerable, beyond any law. That is perhaps the only explanation for what happened next. Until now they had been hunting across land which, while close to the communities of the Bishnoi, the special protectors of the deer, is peopled by other local groups which do not have this tradition of benevolent concern. That may explain why no alert was sounded, why Khan and his friends hunted with impunity. On the night of Thursday 1 October, though, they became reckless: they strayed on to the Bishnois' land.
The village of Gudda-Bishnoiya looks no different to the rest of the scrubland: dry, dusty, covered with the sprawling unkempt babul bushes, dotted with hardy trees. Houses and people are widely spaced. Some of the Bishnois' homes are structures which were built by the British many years ago for officials of the nearby aerodrome - structures which are now in a state of slow-motion collapse.
On this night, Salman Khan again took the wheel, and when they were 20km from Jodhpur they veered off the road into the country of the Bishnoi. Five kilometres into the wild they spotted a group of blackbuck, beautiful dark brown antelopes with white underbellies. Khan braked, grabbed the rifle, took aim and shot the deer in the leg. But before he could dispatch the animal with his knife, local Bishnoi farmers, roused by the noise, were out of their houses to find out what was going on. The jeep drove off at speed, but when they came across another group of blackbuck, Khan could not resist having another go. This time an animal was hit in the neck. By now the Bishnoi were giving chase on motorcycles - seven on three machines - and though one bike was knocked over by the jeep, the farmers were able to record the number on the plates.
The actors made it back to Jodhpur. There they may have hoped the matter would rest: for although India has an apparently tough Wildlife Protection Act, prosecutions under it are few and convictions even fewer - only two or three since the Act was passed 26 years ago. So when, seven days later, Khan and his friends were arrested for offences under the Act; and when, four days after that, Khan's application for bail was refused, and he was consigned to judicial custody, it must have seemed as if some gruesome Bollywood potboiler had come to life.
Khan's mistake was to have crossed the path of one of India's most singular communities. The Bishnoi is a caste of farmers with roots in the Jodhpur region. They look not unlike other farming castes in the area, the men tall and gaunt, their heads crowned by big white turbans, the women cowled in the unmistakeable Rajastani fashion with layers of dazzlingly coloured and patterned cotton, and with noses and ears strung with golden ornaments. In these dry, dusty fields they plant barley and mustard; they drive cattle and water buffalo to the sparse, rocky pastures.
But in the Bishnois' case, the poverty and simplicity are misleading. One of the community's prominent members, a Jodhpur High Court advocate called Mahesh Chandra Bishnoi, who I met among the clattering old typewriters and milling litigants in the court's chambers, found the phrase that fits them: "Plain living and high thinking." The Bishnoi follow the radically pacifist teachings of their 15th-century guru, Shri Jambheshwar, a syncretic teacher who extracted what he found most satisfactory from the creeds that cohabited in the region, Hinduism, Islam and Jainism, and added a special attitude of gentleness towards the environment which has defined the Bishnoi ever since. The Bishnoi were Gandhians 500 years before the Mahatma. The keystone of Gandhi's teaching, the injunction ahimsa -"do no harm" - has been ingrained in their thinking for centuries. It encompasses whatever they encounter in their lives: the animals, the plants, the trees.
In Rajasthan's harsh, semi-arid environment, it has proved a superbly far-sighted philosophy. North and west of Jodhpur lies the Thar Desert, where nothing of use to man grows, largely because of man's folly and mismanagement. Where the Bishnoi dominate, however, man-made deserts do not arise. They may not harm a living tree; and Jodhpur's gnarled and wiry trees help the soil retain as much water as possible. All animals are made welcome, even the nilghai, the tall, ungainly antelope which most other farmers despise. The animals may damage the crops, but they also fertilise the soil. So tenderly do the Bishnoi regard the deer that if a fawn is abandoned, a lactating Bishnoi woman may breastfeed it along with her own child.
Guru Jambeshwar, Jambhaji as they refer to him, laid down 29 principles by which the Bishnoi live - "a very practical and convenient code", as Mahesh Bishnoi puts it. Yet all might have been forgotten now, but for an incident that occurred in 1730 when the Maharaja of Jodhpur needed wood to build new structures in Jodhpur Fort.
The only locally available stand of trees was a wood of kejri trees that grew under Bishnoi protection on Bishnoi land. The Maharaja's officials set off to cut the trees down, but when the community saw what was about to happen to their cherished trees, they clung to them, forcing their bodies betwen the trunks and the Maharaja's men's axes. So not only were the trees cut, but the Bishnoi too - men, women and children. As they fell dead, more ran forward to take their place. In all, 363 Bishnoi were massacred before word of the atrocity reached the Maharaja and he called a halt. Shocked and penitent, he vowed never again to harm the Bishnois' trees. And thus an extraordinarily potent myth was born: a myth of self- sacrifice for the sake of nature that is at once archaic and strikingly modern.
"Bishnoi revere all the birds and animals on their land," says Mahesh Bishnoi, "the hare, the tortoise, the peacocks and the partridge as well as the deer." But it is over the deer, especially the desperately rare blackbuck and chinkara, that Bishnoi have repeatedly been called on to make good their pledge. If poachers show up on their land, they do everything in their power to thwart them. Many Bishnoi have died in the process - some 17, I was told, in recent decades. In 1978, for example, a farmer called Birbal Bishnoi was eating dinner at home in Lohawal village near Jodhpur when he heard gunshots outside. He rushed out and chased the two poachers, but when he managed to bring one of them down, the other took a shot at him. Birbal was badly injured, but clung to the poacher until help arrived. He later died from his wounds.
In other cases it was the poacher who died, destroyed by the villagers' collective fury. The seven Bishnoi who, on the night of 1 October, leaped on motorcycles and chased Salman Khan's jeep, were keeping faith with a remarkable tradition. Khan and his friends were lucky to get away unharmed. As it was, the jeep arrived back at the Umeda Bhawan Palace covered in mud and with both front tyres punctured. The damage has yet to be accounted for.
Poaching endangered animals, for profit or fun or both, is rampant in India today, because, although there is a good law on the books which outlaws it, it is not properly enforced. In the rare event of a poacher being caught in the act, he has numerous opportunities to get off the hook: by bribing the forest guards, who are paid starvation wages; bribing vets who perform post mortems; pulling political strings to have the case aborted. Even if a poacher is charged, the case can disappear into the bowels of India's grossly underfunded legal system for years. Very rarely do cases come to a conclusion.
Salman Khan's case looked as if it was headed the same way. A hurried post mortem carried out on the two blackbuck at the site of the shooting declared, fatuously, that one died from "injuries suffered during leaping", one from "overeating". The deer were buried at the spot. The weapons used to kill them were spirited away to Bombay. The case looked like ending before it had even started. Bollywood rules.
Two things made that impossible. First, the Bishnoi would not let the matter rest. In the days after the killings, they held demonstrations in Jodhpur demanding justice. Furthermore, it is election time now in India: polls for state assemblies all over the Union were due in a few weeks. The Bishnoi community in Rajasthan is numerous - no-one knows how many, but an educated guess puts them at two per cent of the state's population, about one million people. They are tight-knit, too, capable of voting as a block. Bishnoi leaders made it clear that the political parties' stand on Salman Khan would powerfully influence how they voted.
It took seven days - days of fevered meeting, long phone calls, smoke- filled rooms, VIP "air-dashes" - before the political will to proceed was mustered. A new post mortem was ordered, the deers' carcasses exhumed, and a body of learned men declared that they actually died from gunshot wounds. The vet responsible for the faked report disappeared, and is sought by the police. Finally, a full 10 days after the event, Khan and his friends were arrested and charged.
The case is far from over yet, and the outcome is far from certain. Like all trials in India, it will drag on for many months, possibly years. Dushyant Singh, the guide who is alleged to have arranged the poaching trips, has yet to be arrested, and there are dark rumours that he is being protected by the powerful Rajputs who used to rule Jodhpur (Singh is a Rajput himself), and who still wield great power.
But already something has changed. As a result of the case, poaching has been all over India's front pages for weeks. The right of Bombay's rich punks to butcher at will has, for the first time, been seriously questioned.
An unexpected casualty of the affair has been the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The mammoth organisation's Indian branch has been criticised lately for ineffectuality. But this was much worse: just as Salman Khan was being produced in court, accused of one of the worst wildlife crimes one can think of, the Fund's glossy 1999 calendar was rolling off the presses - with 12 artful photographs of the hottest Bollywood stars, one for each month.
Salman Khan's month was February. There he was, moody, sensitive and stripped to the waist as usual. "Travel your way to good health," twittered the copy at the foot of the page. "Use bicycle or better still, walk whenever you can." WWF issued a furious denunciation of the poachers and arranged for February to be pulped and replaced.
In the field that surrounds a tumbledown Bishnoi house in Gudda-Bishnoi, a couple of kilometres from the scene of the final night's poaching, Bishnoi elders gathered recently to give a ceremonial send-off to a local girl who had just got married. Under the bright shamiana in the mellow October sunshine, the towering white turbans and divided whiskers and hawk-like brown profiles were assembled. What, I asked them, would they consider a suitable punishment for Salman Khan? The reply was instantaneous and vehement, and a bit surprising if one takes the Bishnois' pacifism at face value. "He should be hanged." "His ears and nose should be cut off," said another, "and he should be beaten black and blue."
Gudda-Bishnoiya is Edge City: the suburbs where middle-class Bishnoi like Mahesh Bishnoi the advocate build their pink stone villas are only a few miles away. The perimeter fence of the British-built aerodrome borders the road. Other groups with no special concern for wild animals or the enviroment live in close quarters with the Bishnoi. To see the Bishnoi lifestyle in its purest form you must travel far from the city and out into the fringes of the desert, to villages like Osian, Phalodi, Jamba and Mukaon, which the contamination of city life has yet to reach. But in fact this proximity to the city makes what one sees here all the more striking. Rural Indian life goes on all around. A line of Bishnoi women pass with big brass water pots on their heads, others crammed into a tractor trailer, a family of five squeezed on to a scooter. And over and over again we see deer, placidly cropping grass a few yards away. A group of chinkara dashes away at our approach, then stands there staring, wagging their broad, flat tails. A full-grown male blackbuck steams across the road, head and long, twisting horns lowered, almost under the bumper of an Ambassador. At the spot where Khan made his last killing, another male blackbuck chases the eight or 10 does in his harem back and forth, the does shooting almost vertically up into the air as if on pogo sticks.
A few miles away is a grove of sacred kejri trees: 363 of them, for the 363 Bishnoi who died nearly 270 years ago protecting their community's woodland. When I arrived the sun was poised above the horizon, and the trees were dense with the cries of returning birds. At the end of the avenue between the trees stands a simple whitewashed shrine; inside, a flame burnt before the portrait of Guru Jambaji. As the sun set, the priest, clad in orange, beat a tattoo on drum and gong in memory of the Bishnoi martyrs.
Back in Bombay, life for the stars is getting back to normal. Salman is out on bail, as are his alleged accomplices, Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Nee- lam, Sonali Bendre and the comedian Satish Shah - hot Bollywood properties all, and back into the hectic Bombay film round, sprinting from set to set of half a dozen movies in production simultaneously.
What the Jodhpur escapade will do for Salman Khan's career it is too early to judge. In Jodhpur after his arrest, the two films of his that were showing in the town were promptly pulled from the screens. But thousands of fans besieged the court to catch a glimpse of him, while inside his supporters and the Bishnoi traded slogans and nearly came to blows.
At the arraignment, Khan himself was full of rich brat conceit, lolling in his chair and joking with his co-accused. But his questioning lasted seven hours, and after a few nights on a hard cot in the forester's hut which was his makeshift prison, the stuffing had come out of him. In court now he was meek and tame. To the press he declared his innocence - "I love wild animals," he bleated, "how could I harm them?"
It must have been hard for him to judge how to play it; for now the contradictions in his screen persona were coming home to roost. For Khan the on-screen bully boy, a reputation for slitting furry animals' throats in real life might be almost helpful; and Blitz, a Bombay tabloid, duly weighed in with anonymous "film industry sources" describing Khan as "a very violent person" and a former girlfriend calling him "a maniac". But what help will such a reputation be for Khan the shy lover, Khan the bumbling clown, Khan the Indian Norman Wisdom?
And then of course Salman Khan might be convicted and go to jail - whereupon not only his fans but the producers who have tens of millions of rupees invested in his half-finished films would be seri- ously distraught. But few Indians believe that this is how the story will end. For the Bishnoi and the blackbuck it might be the only just outcome. But Indians have become resigned to the fact that the rich and powerful very rarely serve sentences in prison. The motto at the base of India's national symbol, the three lions of the great King Ashok, reads Satyamev Jayate, "Let Truth Prevail." But in India today, that is an increasingly rare occurrence
Blackbuck poaching case: Salman Khan to appear before Jodhpur court on March 10 Express News Service | New Delhi | January 29, 2014 (With PTI inputs)
In 1998 it was alleged that Salman Khan had carried arms with an expired license during Blackbuck poaching at Kankani village. Besides Salman, actors Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam were accused of poaching two Blackbucks in the intervening night of October 1 and 2, 1998 in Kankani village near Jodhpur during the shooting of the film ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain.’
A case had also been registered against Salman Khan by the forest department under the Arms Act mentioning that licence of the arms used by Khan during alleged poaching of black bucks at village Kankani near Jodhpur on the intervening night of 1-2 October, 1998, had expired and hence the actor had been using the arms illegally.
In 1998, Salman Khan spent three days in prison for killing a black buck, an endangered species of deer, in Rajasthan. Blackbuck being a protected animal and hunting or poaching of the same is a punishable offence under law.
In February 2006, Salman Khan was convicted under the Wild Life Act for poaching a Chinkara at Bhawad near Jodhpur during the shooting of film Hum Saath Saath Hain.
Salman Khan was sentenced to one-year imprisonment and was slapped a fine of Rs 5,000.
2012: High Court
The High Court had revised the charges against the actors in December 2012. In the fresh charges, Salman was charged with Section 9/51 of the Wildlife Protection Act and others including a local accused Dushyant Singh with sections 9/51, 9//52 of the same Act and section 149 of IPC.
In December 2013, Salman Khan's counsel had said that there was no direct evidence against the actor that he carried arms with expired license during the alleged Blackbuck poaching at the nearby Kankani village in 1998. The actor had earlier been exempted from appearing in the court, but he was summoned by the Chief Judicial Magistrate this time.
He has since been out of jail on bail. According to the report, the Rajasthan High Court had put the jail term on hold to help the actor procure a British visa. However, under the British immigration rules, a person sentenced to more than four years in jail is not eligible for a visa.
The Supreme Court cancelled the court order that had put his five-year jail term in a 1998 poaching case, on hold.
The Supreme Court set aside the stay order and stated that convicted politicians can also come to the court and demand a suspension of the conviction on grounds that they were facing hardship much like the actor. The court further implied that the actor could appeal the decision in the High Court if he felt that "irreparable damage was done to him." The Times of India
On April 23 , the chief judicial magistrate accepted an application moved by Khan's counsel seeking exemption from his appearance in the court on the ground of ill health, and asked him to appear in May 2015 to record his statement.
In a setback for Salman Khan, a Jodhpur court in May 2015 rejected his plea for re-examination of witnesses in a case related to illegal possession and use of arms.
Salman Khan had filed an appeal for re-examination of five witnesses in the case registered against him under the Arms Act. The Times of India
In the courts of law
2016: Acquittal by High Court
- The Rajasthan High Court acquitted Salman Khan in two cases of chinkara poaching
- The actor still has 2 more cases pending against him — one under Arms act and of poaching 2 blackbucks in Kankani
In July 2016, the Rajasthan High Court acquitted Salman Khan in two cases of chinkara poaching after a long trial.
In 2006, the trial court had sentenced him to one year and five years of imprisonment, respectively, in cases of poaching two chinkaras on September 26-27, 1998, at Bhawad and another chinkara at Ghoda Farm in Mathania on September 28-29, 1998.
While acquitting Salman, Justice Nirmaljit Kaur did not find any incriminating evidence pointing to his involvement in poaching chinkaras, an endangered species and Rajasthan's state animal.
With the relief, the actor now has only two more cases pending against him in the trial court -- one each under the Arms Act for allegedly using weapons with an expired licence and of poaching two blackbucks in Kankani on October 1-2, 1998, during the shooting of his film, 'Hum Saath Saath Hain'.
Said Salman's counsel Mahesh Bora: Khan was falsely implicated on the basis of statements given by Harish Dulani, the driver of the vehicle.
In its observation, the high court said that the cases were built on the statements given by Dulani, but he could not be cross-examined by the prosecution as he had disappeared suddenly. "So, the statements of Dulani could not be considered," said the court. The court observed that since Dulani's statements were taken while he was in the custody of forest department, it could not be considered.
The court also rejected the plea of the prosecution to consider the statements of forest officer Lalit Bora.
Besides, the court also found faults in the attempts of the prosecution to prove the case on circumstantial evidences such as the vehicle allegedly used while poaching, bloodstains, hair strands and pellets.
The court had already arrived at the conclusion that the pellets recovered from the vehicle did not match those taken from the rooms of Salman Khan and Saif Ali Khan.
‘Salman shot chinkaras:’ driver
Jul 28 2016 : The Times of India (Delhi) Driver returns, says Salman shot chinkaras
Two days after Salman Khan was acquitted in two cases related to poaching of chinkaras in Jodhpur in 1998, driver Harish Dulani resurfaced and stuck to his claim that Salman had got off his jeep and shot the animals.
Dulani, the prosecution's only witness, was `missing' all this while and hence the court couldn't consider his statement. “I was scared after I received threats,“ he said. Salman could be in for trouble as Dulani is also a witness in the black buck poaching case which is pending against the actor.
Dulani, diver, changed statement in 2006
Dulani had ignored summons, changed his statement in 2006
Harish Dulani, the main witness in the chinkara poaching cases against Salman Khan, skipped the trial despite the several summons and bailable warrants issued against him. The court hearing the cases stopped summoning him two months before the first judgment, involving the Bhawad poaching case, in February 2006. The second judgment, for the Ghoda Farm poaching case, followed in April. The then additional director (prosecution) Jeevan Ram Choudhary said the prosecution had looked for him at every possible address. Interestingly, five days before the April verdict, Dulani appeared before the media and said he had not seen Salman hunt the animals.
2017: acquitted in Arms Act case
Jodhpur: Actor Salman Khan was acquitted [in Jan 2017] in an Arms Act case connected to other cases of poaching endangered species becau se he had been booked under the wrong sec tion of the law.
Khan had been charged under Sections 325 and 27 of the Arms Act for possessing and using firearms for which the licence had expired. The court of the chief judicial magistrate, however, said the licence was valid but needed renewal every year.
“The licence was valid for three years, till August 8, 1999... it was valid during the period in question and the offence was just that it was not renewed (in 1998) for the next one year,“ the order said. According to the Arms Act, Salman's licence was to be renewed annually even while it was valid for three years. The CJM said Salman should have been prose cuted under Section 21, and not Section 3, for failing to renew the licence and, even in that case, the present court had no jurisdiction to hear the matter.
The Arms Act case was supplementary to three other criminal cases of poaching endangered species (blackbuck and chinkara) filed against him by the Rajasthan wildlife department in October 1998. While pronouncing judgment, CJM Dalpat Singh Rajpurohit remarked that the prosecution had failed to prove the charges brought against the actor under Sections 325 and 27 of the Arms Act. The court ruled no case was made out against Salman and said the permission for prosecution granted by then district magistrate Rajat Kumar Mishra had been a “mindless job“ for which Salman had suffered for such a long period.
2018 verdict: DNA ‘fingerprinting’ identified bones, skin as blackbuck’s
- The crucial evidence of a DNA fingerprinting expert from Hyderabad helped the prosecution nail the actor
- The Jodhpur court on Thursday convicted actor Salman Khan in the blackbuck poaching case
HYDERABAD: The crucial evidence of a DNA fingerprinting expert from Hyderabad, who conducted wildlife forensic tests on the samples of a blackbuck sent to a Hyderabad lab — the Centre for DNA fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD) — helped the prosecution nail actor Salman Khan.
The evidence provided by GV Rao, who is now an ex-staffer of CDFD, was crucial in the case.
Rao had deposed in December 2015 in the court when he was then chief staff scientist of CDFD’s DNA fingerprinting lab. His team had used specially developed markers in 1999 to identify the species of blackbuck.
Speaking to TOI after the judgment, Rao said, ”In October 1998 the incident took place. The investigating officer and the then assistant conservator of forests of Jodhpur, Lalit K Bora, conducted a careful investigation. He exhumed the bones and skin after the blackbuck was buried. When he sent us a requisition, we told him we would try to establish the identity of the species. During that time, wildlife forensics, particularly DNA identification, was in a nascent stage. Officials did not want a vague report that said the species belong to antelopes. With the newly-developed markers and methodology, we were able to identify the species and could establish that the bones and skin belonged to the animal," he said.
He added, ”When I deposed in December 2015 in court, I explained how we developed the methodology and how the test was conducted to identify the species. In the cross-examination too I was able to explain the authenticity of the test and results. I am happy that at last the court has convicted Salman Khan.”
Rao lives in Alwal in Hyderabad and is now into civic activism. He was also associated with the forensic investigation of other sensational cases such as the killing of tigress Sakhi at the Hyderabad Zoo.
“I am happy about the judgement as it reinforces faith in the judiciary even though the accused is so powerful,” Rao remarked.
Since 2001, the Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology’s Laboratory for Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCones) has been involved in wildlife forensics in connection with such cases.
LaCones senior principal scientist Karthikeyan Vasudevan told TOI, ”We have done DNA fingerprinting in around 3,000 cases of wildlife poaching and smuggling and identified the species and helped investigators. Tadoba tiger poaching is one of the major cases. In 1998 CCMB scientists developed Universal Markers that are being used for various species.”
2018 verdict: Key witness could not identify Tabu, Sonali in court
[Swati.Deshpande@timesgroup.com |Key witness couldn’t identify Tabu, Sonali Bendre in court | The Times of India]
Mumbai: A crucial and solitary eyewitness’s failure to recognise Tabu and Sonali Bendre while being grilled by their lawyer aided their acquittal. As for Saif Ali Khan, although witness testimony indicated his presence in the front seat of the vehicle, there was no evidence produced to show his complicity in poaching or instigating Salman Khan to fire at the blackbucks.
The court finally held that there was no eyewitness evidence or other evidence to establish a case against Saif, Tabu, Neelam and Sonali Bendre. The court accepted defence counsel Shrikant Shivade’s argument that solitary eyewitness Poonamchand Bishnoi, who was also the complainant, could not establish that these four or the fifth co-accused, Dushyant Singh, played any role in the crime; nor did other witnesses summoned by the prosecution.
Shivade had suddenly produced Tabu and Sonali in court one day and asked Bishnoi, during his cross-examination, to identify them. He was unable to do so. When asked by the court why he had failed to recognise them despite naming them in his complaint, Bishnoi told the court that it was because of their unassuming attire — they were dressed in white salwar suits. This boosted the defence case that the witness, contrary to his claim, was not at the site of the killings and that he could not have been able to spot who was in the vehicle from about 150m away.
While all five actors had a common defence that the FIR was based on a fake complaint, Salman’s defence team of Mumbai-based lawyer Anand Desai and Jodhpur- based Hastimal Saraswat argued that the evidence against the actor was inadmissible in view of earlier judgments acquitting him in another poaching case and Arms Act case in Rajasthan HC. However, the judge did not accept this argument. He held Salman guilty on the basis of the second post-mortem report and the eyewitness account.
Shivade demonstrated that the witness was at a distance of 100m at the time of the first shooting and 150m at the time of the second shooting, making it impossible to identify any person from such a distance in the dark, merely under the glare of a ‘motorcycle headlight’. The prosecution had said there was moonlight too. But Shivade produced that day’s almanac to show that the moon had set at 1.30 am and the alleged firing was after that till 2 am.
2018: Salman gets 5 years in jail, other accused let off
Salman Khan has been sentenced to five years in jail in the 1998 blackbuck poaching case
Co-accused Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Neelam and Tabu have been acquitted
Blackbuck poaching case: Salman Khan gets 5 years in jail, other accused let off
NEW DELHI: In a major setback to actor Salman Khan, a Jodhpur trial court today sentenced him to 5 years in jail in the 1998 blackbuck poaching case. Other accused in the case were acquitted.
Jodhpur District Presiding Officer Devkumar Khatri pronounced Salman guilty of killing two blackbucks, which are an endangered species, on October 1, 1998 during a hunting expedition near Jodhpur, Rajasthan. A penalty of Rs 10,000 has also been levied on him.
Co-accused Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Neelam and Tabu were present in court during pronouncement of the verdict. There are two other accused in the case -- travel agent Dushyant Singh and Dinesh Gawre, Salman's assistant at the time. Gawre is still absconding.
The actors are accused of hunting down two blackbucks in Kankani village near Jodhpur on the intervening night of October 1 and 2, 1998. The actors were in the city for the shooting of the film 'Hum Saath Saath Hain'.
Salman, 52, had earlier pleaded innocence in the case, claiming before the court that the blackbuck died of "natural causes" and he was being "framed".
Salman is facing charges under Section 51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act and the other actors have been charged under Section 51 read with Section 149 (unlawful assembly) of the Indian Penal Code. Maximum punishment under Section 51 is six years.
H M Saraswat, the defence counsel for Salman Khan, said there are many loopholes in the prosecution's case and the prosecution has failed to prove the case beyond any doubt.
"Prosecution has failed to prove allegations against the accused and has engaged in tampering and fabricating evidences and documents as well as roping in fake witnesses to prove the case. It has even failed to prove that black bucks were killed by gunshots. Hence such investigation cannot be trusted upon", Saraswat said during final arguments on March 28.
This is last of the three poaching cases against Salman from 1998 that is being heard at Jodhpur trial court. He was convicted in two poaching cases by trial court, only to be acquitted by the Rajasthan high court later.
Jailing: Implications for Salman, producers
Salman’s jailing: financial stakes involved
Trade analysts say Rs 400-600 crore riding on Salman Khan
Bollywood superstar Salman Khan, who was today sentenced to five years in jail has Rs 400 to Rs 600 crore riding on him in the industry and the verdict will affect three major film projects, according to trade analysts.
The 52-year-old actor was in the middle of shooting 'Race 3' but it is not clear whether his work is complete on the film, being directed by Remo D'Souza.
"Whatever is left of 'Race 3' will have to be completed soon because the film is releasing in June. 'Kick 2', 'Dabangg 3' and 'Bharat' were yet to start so there isn't much monetary loss. It is a huge loss to the industry and trade as he is a big star who guarantees big success," trade analyst Komal Nahta said.
"'Race 3' has Rs 125-150 crore riding on it. For other films, not money but may be time has gone. He has not started any other film so it isn't that films will be stuck. He may have planned it like that knowing that April 5 is the date of the judgement," Nahta added.
Trade analyst Girish Wankhede also maintains that it is a big blow to the industry as Salman has been extremely profitable as a brand with back-to-back blockbusters to his credit.
"All his films make a minimum of Rs 200 crore. Three films have already been announced. 'Race 3' is the biggest Eid release. So approximately 600 crore are riding at the box office," Wankhede told .
The trade insiders believe that besides the films, the actor's endorsement deals and TV appearances will also be negatively affected.
"There is about Rs 400 crore riding on him, including Rs 150 crore on 'Race 3' and signing amounts and rights of films such as 'Bharat', 'Dabangg 3' etc and the TV show 'Dus Ka Dum' and TV commercials," Amod Mehra, trade analyst said.
"'Race 3' is almost complete, only dubbing is left so I don't think any of the films would be affected by the verdict... As other films have just been announced," Mehra said.
The reaction of the Bishnoi community
Gangster Lawrence Bishnoi Threatened to Kill Salman In Jodhpur
In a shocking turn of events, Gangster Lawrence Bishnoi of Rajasthan issued a death threat to Salman Khan.
"Salman Khan will be killed here, in Jodhpur... Then he will come to know about our real identity," Bishnoi told media persons while being taken to a Jodhpur court in police security.
Bishnoi was being produced in the court following his arrest on charges of terrorizing traders and extorting them. The gangster claimed that he had been framed in false cases and till date, not even a single witness had deposed in the court to prove the charges.
"Now, if the police want me to do some major crime, I shall kill Salman Khan and that too in Jodhpur."
It was the Bishnoi community which had brought up the black buck hunting case, and ever since the community considers the Bollywood actor a "villain".
Several onlookers claimed that gangster's threat to Salman was just to create a sensation.
Reports claim that Bishnoi is one of the most notorious gangsters and has been charged in over 20 cases of attempt to murder, carjacking, extortion, snatching and under the Arms Act in Punjab-Haryana belt.
(With agency inputs)
Salman Khan in jail
2018: 4th stint at Jodhpur Central
[Ashish.Mehta@timesgroup.com| Big Boss In Jailhouse As Qaidi No. 106 | The Times of India]
4th stint at Jodhpur Central, with Asaram in next cell
Jaipur: He had been here before – thrice. On Thursday, Salman Khan returned to Jodhpur Central Jail for the fourth time, as Qaidi number 106, convicted in a case 20 years old.
It was in 1998 that Salman first spent time in this jail. That was for five days. He was back again – for four days – in 2006; and then again, in 2007, for five days.
The 14 days he had spent in the Jodhpur jail came in handy for Salman on Thursday: this was familiar territory. He will have a 10x10 cell, with a wall separating him from rape-accused godman Asaram Bapu, lodged in the cell next to his.
Senior jail officials said Salman will be kept isolated from other prisoners with extra security around his cell at ward No.2 of the jail. DIG (Jail) Vikram Singh, who is also the jail superintendent, told TOI over the phone from Jodhpur: “We asked him if he was feeling low or depressed and whether he needed any medicine. But he said he was fine. ‘I have been inside this jail earlier,’ he said. Later, he requested us to allow him his nightdress, toothbrush and undergarments inside the jail.”
As soon as Salman entered the jail compound, he was hounded by some young home guards with requests for an autograph and a picture. But Salman turned them down with folded hands.
Salman was to be served a regular dinner cooked for all inmates. “We have channe ki dal, patta gobi sabzi and chappati for the inmates,” Singh said.
“Adequate arrangements have been made for Salman’s security in the jail. Since he is a public figure he can’t be put into barracks where common undertrials and convicts are housed. He is being kept separate from the rest of jail inmates,” the officer said.
Salman, during his previous stint in this jail, was into crunches, push-ups and ‘chai’ with another inmate Mahesh Sharma, who was a member of the jail band. Many jail authorities who were posted at the Jodhpur jail recalled how Salman asked why there was only one TV for more than 100 inmates and why there were so few toilets.
“Salman had said that for 9 to 10 inmates there was only one toilet. He had even offered to help in constructing more toilets. He was politely denied saying jails are made like this only,” recalled Hukum Singh, a home guard who was posted at Jodhpur jail in 2007.
A former DG (Jail), who has since retired, said, “His behaviour in jail was good. He never asked for special status, nor did he have any special demands. He just requested that he be allowed to meet visitors from his family as per jail norms.”
But he did have one big grouse. Like everyone, he, too, was given one steel mug that doubled up as tea cup, dal bowl, and a bath mug.
In jail: Salman skips meals, not his workout
[Ashish.Mehta@timesgroup.com | Salman skips meals, but not his workout | 7 April 2018 | The Times of India ]
Jaipur: Qaidi number 106 at Jodhpur central jail skipped his dinner on Thursday and refused to eat porridge and gram served to inmates on Friday morning. But Salman Khan did not miss out on his daily workout which he is passionate about.
A jail officer said the actor worked out for at least three hours on Friday evening inside ward number 2, doing crunches, push-ups, skipping, jumping and other exercises.
Salman was restless late on Thursday when a senior jail officer visited him and asked if he required a doctor. He politely refused and lay down on a mat on the floor. “He went off to sleep around midnight and woke up for a few minutes at 6.30am when the jail siren sounded. He went back to sleep and got up at 8.30am,” said jail superintendent Vikram Singh.
Salman meets Preity, two sisters; is served dinner in his ward
The actor refused breakfast and asked the staff whether he was allowed to purchase something from the jail canteen. “He asked for a glass of milk and some bread, which was given to him,” Singh added.
He said Salman was restless around 9.45am and was seen walking inside his ward. “At 11.30am he was informed that the court will decide on his bail application on Saturday. He then skipped lunch,” Singh added.
But despite missing three successive meals, Salman surprised the jail staff when soon after meeting actor Preity Zinta and his sisters Alvira and Arpita in the afternoon, he started his workout in the scorching heat. Singh said he started the exercises at 3.30pm and continued till 6.30pm.
The jail staff served dinner at 7.30pm inside the ward: kakdi, tamatar ki sabzi, dal and chapati. “He has been given extra security. So, unlike other prisoners, he is not supposed to come out and take his dinner. He was served dinner inside his ward,” said an officer.
In the evening, Salman told the authorities he wanted to take a bath, which was organised inside the ward itself. “He is a tough man. He has been drinking water that is provided for every prisoner,” said an officer.
While Salman met his sisters, he could not speak to his parents. “Every prisoner is allowed to speak to relatives on the phone on one of the two numbers provided by him. On his arrival, Salman had given the numbers of his father and his mother. But there was no reply on both the numbers,” said Singh. Refuting reports that Salman spoke to fellow inmate Asaram Bapu, Singh said, “Both of them are high-profile prisoners. Salman was confined to his ward.”
Two days later: Salman Khan on bail
Two days after being held guilty of killing two blackbucks in Jodhpur during the shooting of his movie in 1998, Salman Khan was granted bail in the case.
Judge Dev Kumar Khatri, who sentenced Salman to five years in jail, has been promoted and put on Awaiting Posting Order (APO). The District and Sessions Judge, who was scheduled to hear Salman's bail plea in blackbuck poaching case has been transferred by the Rajasthan High Court.
The Rajasthan High Court transferred Sessions Judge Ravindra Kumar Joshi along with other 87 district judges.
Judge Ravinder Kumar decided whether or not to take up the case today.
Salman cannot leave the nation without the court's permission and will have to appear here again in person on May 7, said Mahipal Bishnoi, lawyer of Bishnoi community
The court has granted bail to Salman on personal bond of Rs 50,000 and two sureties of Rs 25,000 each.
Salman Khan: The Blackbuck Poaching Case, 1998
Arpita Khan, sister