In Depth

Bollywood star Salman Khan guilty of poaching

Court finds actor guilty of illegally shooting rare blackbuck antelope

Bollywood superstar Salman Khan has been convicted of illegally hunting a rare breed of antelope while shooting a movie in 1998.

A court in Jodhpur sentenced Khan to five years in prison for poaching the blackbuck deer, ending a lengthy legal battle. The actor and singer has said he intends to appeal the verdict. In the meantime, he has arrived at Jodhpur Central Prison to begin his sentence.

In October 1998, while filming Hum Saath Saath Hain in Rajasthan, Khan and co-stars Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Sonali Bendre and Neelam are alleged to have shot and killed two blackbucks.

The incident occurred near a village inhabited by members of Bishnoi religious sect, “a community that reveres the animals and is passionate about protecting them”, says NDTV.

Villagers said that they heard gunfire and then saw an off-road vehicle driving away the scene. A deer carcass was found near the spot where the shots were heard.

The blackbuck incident has dogged Khan, one of India’s most bankable stars, for the past two decades. In court appearances and interviews, he has given various accounts of the incident, including claims that he was unarmed, armed only with an air pistol or even that he fed the deer, says NDTV.

The Jodhpur court today found Khan’s co-stars not guilty due to a lack of evidence. Passing sentence on Khan, the court described the 52-year-old as a “habitual offender”.

In 2006, he was found guilty in two other poaching incidents dating from September 1998, although both convictions have since been overturned on appeal, the Times of India reports.

The poaching conviction is not Khan’s first high-profile brush with the law. In 2015, he was convicted of culpable homicide after his Toyota Land Cruiser ran over four people in Mumbai, killing a homeless man who was sleeping on the street. The conviction was later overturned due to lack of evidence.

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