It is believed that Bollywood actor Salman Khan killed two black bucks while filming his popular movie “Hum Saath Saath Hain” in Bhaoda ki Dhani in Kankani village near Jodhpur and a charge was framed against him under Section- 9 and 51 of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

In the so-called Blackback case in 1998, his associates Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Neelam and Tabu were also prosecuted under Section- 51 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and Section- 149 of the Indian Penal Code. However, they were all acquitted after the benefit of the doubt. Two other people, Dinesh Gawr and Dushyant Singh, were also accused of being with the actors during the alleged poaching[1].

Unravelling the incident

In October 1998, “Hum Saath Saath Hain” was filmed in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. It is said that the actors ran into a group of black bucks while driving through the village of Kankani in a gypsy car. Salman Khan shot two of them. After realizing they could be seen, the group of actors allegedly fled the crime scene[2].

Blackbucks are sacred to the Bishnoi tribe of Rajasthan, who protect this species for religious reasons. The prosecutor claimed that after hearing the gunshots, residents of Bishnoi village chased the actors’ gypsy and left the carcass. The case is based on the primary witnesses-residents of Bishnoi village.

It is not yet clear exactly what happened, though Salman issued a statement denying the allegations. In the Jodhpur court in January 2017, his answers to the judge's questions were still largely true and false. Salman told the magistrate in Jodhpur Court: “Only the first forensic report by Dr. Nepalia on the natural death of animals is true, and the rest of the evidence is false.” According to the report last year, most questions were answered as “False" and "Galat". Chief Judicial Magistrate Dalpat Singh Rajpurohit told Salman that two locals saw him kill a black buck. Salman said: "Wrong”.

Allegations against Salman Khan

Salman Khan was charged twice, once for poaching[3] and once for offences under the Arms Act. Blackbucks are one of the endangered animals listed in the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972 and cannot be hunted and the same is punishable under the act with a fine and/or imprisonment of up to three years.

The complete case file of the poaching incident case

There were four poaching incidents related to poaching case.

· Case 1-Poaching Bhawad Chinkara: It is said that on September 27, 1998, Salman Khan hunted Chinkara on the border of the Bhawad village on the outskirts of Jodhpur.

Status: On February 17, 2006, the trial court sentenced him to one year's rigorous imprisonment. Salman Khan asked the Rajasthan High Court to overturn the verdict, bypassing the opportunity to appeal to the nearest higher court of District Judge.

· Case 2: Ghoda Farm Poaching: According to reports, on the night of September 28, 1998, Salman Khan hunted and killed two Chinkaras near the annual farm in the Osian district of Jodhpur.

Status: On April 10, 2006 Salman Khan was sentenced to 5 years of rigorous imprisonment. Khan appealed to the district judge, but his appeal was dismissed, the verdict remained the same, and the actor appealed to the High Court. On July 25, 2017, Judge Nirmaljit Kaur released Salman Khan on charges of poaching on the farms of Ghoda and Bhavad Chinkara.

· Case 3-Arms Act case[4]: Forest officials and police allegedly found a 32-caliber revolver and a 22-caliber rifle at the Salman Khan’s hotel room. These weapons were confiscated on October 15, 1998, while Salman Khan’s gun license expired on September 22, 1998.

The court declared Salman Khan not guilty in January 2017. The Rajasthan government has appealed the ruling to the district court.

· Case 4- Kankani Black Buck Poaching case: According to reports, on October 2, 1998, Salman Khan hunted and killed two black antelopes. His co-stars Tabu, Sonali Bendre, Neelam and Saif Ali Khan were jointly charged and face indictment in this case.

Arguments before Trial Court

The main basis for this case will be whether the prosecutor can prove that Khan and others killed the black buck. Salman Khan’s lawyer, HM Saraswat, claimed that the actor was being framed in "false and malicious activities”. And his only weapon was an air rifle, that could not kill the deer, and the witness testimony was false. Khan’s lawyer also showed the court a videotape allegedly showing the witness’s signature on blank white papers.

Judgement of Trial Court

In 2006, the actor was sentenced to two years and five years in prison on two counts, and the actor was ordered to pay a fine of 10,000 rupees.

Rajasthan HC’s observation

Rajasthan’s HC[5] decision given by Judge Nirmaljit Kaur’s ruling in Rajasthan raised questions about the evidence against the actor and overturned the 2006 court sentence that the actor was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and five years’ imprisonment. The court stated that the place where the killing took place was never found and the bloodstains found weren’t consistent with those of the dead deer, the body of Chinkara was not found, weapons used for hunting were not found, and even the car under inspection did not confirm the prosecutor's statement.

The latest development of the case

The Jodhpur District and Sessions Court dismissed the two allegations of the state government that Salman Khan was alleged. The High Court accepted his lawyer’s argument that traveling from Mumbai to Jodhpur during the Covid19 pandemic might pose a threat to Khan’s health, thus giving a relief to the actor.

Justices Indrajit Mahanty and Dinesh Mehta also conceded the arguments of defense lawyer H. M. Saraswat that his client's appearance attracts many people to the court, but it can also cause trouble for lawyers. As a result, the court ruled that it was in the interest of justice to allow Khan to appear in court through video links or video conferences instead of in person.

[1] Satish Ravilal Shah v. State of Rajasthan 1998 SCC OnLine Raj 427: (1999) 1 RLW 578: 1999 Cri LJ 727 [2] blackbuck-poaching-case-1708535.html [3] Salman Khan v. State & Ors. 2001 SCC OnLine Raj 495: (2001) 4 RLW 104: (2001) 2 RLR 475: (2001) 2 WLC 535 [4] Salman Khan v. State of Rajasthan 2016 SCC OnLine Raj 4853: (2017) 1 RLW 668: (2016) 4 RCR (Cri) 172: (2016) 4 WLC 379 [5] Salman Khan v. State of Rajasthan 2013 SCC OnLine Raj 3099