• Acquittal For a Hit and Run But Convicted For Poaching

    For how long will Salman Khan stay convicted in the blackbuck poaching case?

    Vivan Eyben

    April 9, 2018

    Image Courtesy: VOA News

    Salman Khan’s conviction in the blackbuck poaching case is welcome news. This decision of a Jodhpur court assures environmentalists and wildlife protection activists that the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 is an effective legislation. The actor had been earlier acquitted of charges under the Arms Act as well as of hunting two chinkaras. However, though he was convicted in the present case, the other co-accused were acquitted. It has been reported that the blood samples from the animal matched those found on the car used. This would then evoke another memory of a criminal case involving Salman Khan and a car, the 2002 hit and run case.

    Unlike in the present case, the 2002 case ended with the actor being acquitted for running his car over people sleeping on the pavement. The act resulted in the death of one person and injuries to four others. The actor was reported to have been drunk at the time the ‘incident’ took place, so maybe this could have been a factor in his acquittal in the case, whereas in the blackbuck poaching case he was most probably stone cold sober. Leaving this aside, the witnesses in the hit and run case had turned hostile, which led to the prosecution’s case failing. However, in the blackbuck case, the Bishnoi community probably could neither be bullied nor bought.

    In the Bombay High Court’s Judgement in December 2015, the Court stated that the investigation was carried out in a careless and faulty manner. The Judgement further stated that the collection of biological evidence was faulty, and that the investigation was carried out in a manner that weakened the prosecution’s case. In short, the High Court stated that the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. The Court found that the actor’s bodyguard, Ravindra Patil had not had his testimony properly recorded. Therefore, since the prosecution was unable to sufficiently prove that the actor was inebriated, and that the main witness Patil’s testimony was not trustworthy, the Court gave the ‘star’ the benefit of doubt.

    Regarding the blackbuck poaching case, there does not seem to be any issue of prosecution ‘goof ups’. However, this verdict is likely to be appealed in the High Court. If the decision of the Bombay High Court to acquit Salman Khan is anything to go by, the actor will likely be able to breathe easy once the High Court admits his appeal. Once the appeal is admitted, then the game is open to find hostile witnesses willing to retract their testimony. Or maybe a friendly public official to help the appellant’s case. He is only a victim of his circumstances after all, affluence is a terrible affliction. While his fans and detractors wait with baited breath, a cold sober view of the matter is required. Like when taking aim at an endangered animal and not joy riding over the pavement at night.


     

    First published in Newsclick.

    Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the writer's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Indian Writers' Forum.

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