THE Supreme Court (SC) on Friday issued notice to Bollywood actor Salman Khan on an appeal by the Rajasthan government challenging his acquittal in two poaching cases. In July, the Rajasthan High Court found the 50-year-old actor not guilty of killing an endangered species of gazelle or chinkara in two separate incidents in 1998 while he was shooting a film in the desert state.
The state government challenged his acquittal; it wants him to be imprisoned to serve the rest of his sentence – after being convicted in 2007 for hunting down and killing the chinkaras, he was awarded a one-year prison term and a five-year prison term respectively. He then spent a week in jail in Jodhpur before being granted bail.
While finding him not guilty, the High Court had said there was no evidence to prove that the animals who were found dead were shot by Mr Khan’s licensed gun. A key witness, the driver of the jeep that was used by Salman Khan and his co-stars for their alleged hunt was missing, the prosecution admitted, which considerably weakened the case against the actor. But just days later, NDTV tracked down the driver, Harish Dulani, who said that he saw Mr Khan shoot the chinkara, but had dodged testifying in court because he had been threatened.
Last month, the Rajasthan government told the Supreme Court that a written statement submitted by Dulani earlier should be accepted. Khan’s lawyers have argued that because the witness never appeared in court, they did not get the opportunity to cross-examine him.
But in its petition before the top court, the Rajasthan government has said that Salman Khan’s lawyers had ample opportunity to cross examine Harish Dulani but they intentionally did not do so. Khan is also accused of killing a protected species of blackbuck antelope in October 2, 1998. The trial in that case is being heard separately. (Inputs by NDTV).