JODHPUR, 27 Jan: The Bollywood actors Salman Khan, Sonali Bendre and Tabu appeared before the court on Friday. According to a news channel, Salman Khan was asked 68 questions. He also claimed not guilty and added that the blackbuck had a ‘natural death’. He also claimed that only the forst forensic report was correct. He also denied going out that night.
Bollywood actors Salman Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Sonali Bendre and Neelam recorded their personal statements before a Jodhpur court in their trial in the blackbuck poaching case.
The next date of hearing in Jodhpur court is February 15.
The city despite witnessing rains on Republic Day witnessed hundreds of fan lined up outside the court of the chief judicial magistrate DS Rajpurohit, near Paota chowk on Friday. It is the last pending trial that Salman Khan, who has four acquittals so far, faces.
Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam, are the co-accused in the 19-year-old original case filed during the shoot of a film Hum Saath Saath hain in September 1998. They are accused of hunting two blackbucks—Indian Antelope– under the Wildlife Protection Act and Indian Penal Code. They reached Jodhpur on January 26.
However, the actors have denied the charges levelled by the judge on them.The trial is at the fag end. The proceedings on Friday are for recording statements under section 313 of the criminal procedure code, a provision that enables accused to have their say.
The section 313, CrPC is a legal provision to meet with principles of natural justice which allows an accused to personally give an explanation to circumstances in the evidence against him. The statement usually recorded as a series of replies to questions asked by a judge is not on oath and is not treated as evidence under law. But it is taken into consideration by the court to appreciate the truthfulness or otherwise of the case of the prosecution.
Salman Khan who is out on bail was apprehended on October 12, 1998 in the case from Umaid Bhavan Palace in the case.
The trial has been underway for years and included a round of litigation that went to the higher judiciary and back. In all, about 29 witnesses were examined by prosecution, including four doctors of the medical board, a DNA expert and eye witnesses. There have been no defence witnesses so far in the trial that is on before the chief judicial magistrate (rural), Jodhpur.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources lists the blackbuck as ‘Near Threatened’. In India, hunting of blackbuck is prohibited under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
Meanwhile, the acquittal in the Arms Act case on January 18 came as a relief to Salman Khan, but he is a long way from the final closure in all the cases against him. There are three appeals pending at the Supreme court against acquittals; two against the Rajasthan high court acquittal in the chinkara cases, one against the Bombay HC acquittal verdict in the 2002 Mumbai case of culpable homicide.
In the Arms Act case, Khan was accused of use of arms on the night of October 1, 1998. Initially his counsel, Shrikant Shivade, sought recall of witnesses which the Rajasthan HC permitted after hearing him in 2015. Later the actor’s defence counsel Hastimal Saraswat from Jodhpur and Anand Desai from Mumbai law firm law firm argued during the trial there which resulted in acquittal on January 18, 2017.
The state have the option to appeal against the magistrate’s order to the sessions court there. If they do challenge and if the sessions court, too, upholds the acquittal, they can appeal to the higher judiciary.