Supreme Court: In a major jolt to popular film star Salman Khan who had been convicted for hunting endangered animals, the Division Bench of S.J. Mukhopadhyaya and A.K. Goel, JJ., set aside the Order passed by the Rajasthan High Court whereby the actor’s conviction was stayed as it was hindering the actor’s efforts to obtain a British visa. The Bench held that the actor being denied British visa due to his conviction under the Indian law is not a ground to grant a stay of conviction and the High Court before issuing the impugned Order should have determined that whether this situation is causing any manner of injustice or irreversible consequences for the respondent.

The judgment comes in the wake of the highly publicized case of hunting endangered animals by the actor which led to his conviction under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 for a sentence of 5 years’ simple imprisonment along with fine. In the subsequent legal proceedings whereby the actor was granted bail with a condition that he must inform the Court whenever he was to travel abroad. Post rejection of his British visa application on grounds of conviction, the aggrieved actor filed a revision petition to the High Court for the suspension of his conviction which was granted to him by the impugned Order of 12.11.2013 by the High Court. Arguing against the impugned Order Adv. Ruchi Kohli on behalf of the State of Rajasthan contended that the Order imposed a blanket suspension which is not permitted in law also the case does not fall in any exceptional circumstances where suspension can be granted. For the respondent Adv. Arjun Harkauli defending the Order contended that the reasoned Order was passed keeping in mind the profession of the respondent that requires traveling abroad and conviction was proving to be a major hardship in keeping up to his professional commitments in overseas. The respondents also argued on the lines of Fundamental Right to practice any profession and right to freedom of speech and expression enshrined in 19(1); (g) and 19(1); (a) respectively.       

Upon perusing the contentions, the Bench observed its previous decisions on the issue and stated that suspension of sentence by the High Courts can only be done in cases where irreparable harm is being caused and such a finding varies from facts to facts and the Rajasthan High Court while passing the impugned Order did not observe any such harm and the conviction was granted only on the ground that the actor was unable to obtain visa. State of Rajasthan v. Salman Salim Khan,  decided on 14.01.2015

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