Salman Khan acquitted of all charges in poaching cases

Rajasthan High Court: The bench of Nirmaljit Kaur J., hearing the revision petition filed by the Bollywood actor, held that in absence of any substantial incriminating evidence that could prove the guilt of the petitioner beyond doubt, the conviction and sentence awarded to him under Section 51 of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 are set aside and he was acquitted of the charges leveled against him.

The petitioner was convicted by the Chief Judicial Magistrate for five years for allegedly hunting deer on 28.09.1998 near Jodhpur. The conviction was affirmed by the Sessions Court, which is challenged in the present round of litigation. The Court held that the petition involved questions of law and required determination as the whole case of the State rested on the statement of an eyewitness. It was held by the court that the statement of the eyewitness was obtained while he was in custody and had been found contradictory and unreliable by the trial court, which had issued a notice in the same regard under CrPC for false evidence. Moreover, the statement could not read against the petitioner under Section 33 of Evidence Act, as he had not been available for cross-examination, relying on Supreme Court’s ruling in Jayendra Vishnu Thakur v. State of Maharashtra (2009) 7 SCC 104 and State of Orissa v. Prasanna Kumar Mohanty (2009) 7 SCC 412. Therefore, the case of the prosecution rested solely on circumstantial evidence.

The Court critically appreciated all the evidences documented and held that the evidences were both weak and inadequate to prove any charge. It was held that the recovery of blood stains and tyre moulds of the Gypsy, after 12 days of the incident was surrounded with suspicion as the area was frequented by military vehicles. In respect to the weapon, it was held that in the absence of the any recovery of carcass or any medical evidence there was no proof with respect to the kind of weapon used. Further, no pellets were found when the gypsy was searched on 07.10.1998 but were suddenly found on 12.10.1998, similarly no weapon were found when the actor’s room was searched on 10.10.1998 but were surprising recovered from the same room on 12.10.1998. Moreover, the pellets recovered from the room did not match the pellets recovered from the actor and could not have been used to kill a large animal like a deer. The petitioner had already been acquitted of any offence under Arms Act, therefore the prosecution could not establish the weapon used in the alleged hunting.

In the view of these observation, the Court allowed the revision petition. The judgment of the Chief Judicial Magistrate and the Sessions Court were set aside along with the conviction and punishment and the actor was acquitted of all charges leveled against him. The appeal of the State against another accused was also dismissed for the same reasons. Salman Khan v. State of Rajasthan, 2016 SCC OnLine Raj 4853 , decided on 25 July, 2016]

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