Jaipur, March 23: A Jodhpur court today framed charges against four Bollywood actors in a 1998 black buck poaching case but key accused Salman Khan failed to appear before it citing a medical problem.
Salman, Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Sonali Bendre and Neelam had been charged with hunting two black bucks at Kankani village on the night of October 1, 1998, while shooting for the film Hum Saath Saath Hain.
The main charge in the case is violation of Section 51 of the Wildlife Protection Act, which says anyone hunting (capturing, killing, poisoning, snaring or trapping) any wild animal or trying to do so may be sent to jail for three years.
Apart from Salman, the other four were present in the court today and were charged under this section as well as Section 52 of the wildlife act (abetment of hunting) as well as Section 149 of the Indian Penal Code dealing with unlawful assembly.
The actors have all denied these charges. The next hearing, when evidence will be presented, is on April 27.
No charges were framed against Salman in his absence. “Salman’s medical certificate and application for leave of absence have been accepted by the court,” the actor’s counsel Hastimal Saraswat told The Telegraph.
Salman is undergoing medical treatment abroad. He is later likely to be charged only under Section 51 of the wildlife act.
Asked why there were more charges against the other four, retired Rajasthan High Court judge Panachand Jain told this newspaper: “The main charge against them is Section 52 (abetment), but in case they are excused under this section, Section 51 has been applied as an alternative under which they may get punished.”
In January 2013, the Supreme Court had rejected a Rajasthan government plea seeking the addition of the charge of rioting (Sections 146 and 147 of the Indian Penal Code) against the five accused.
Salman has already been sentenced to one-year and five-year prison terms in two other cases involving the hunting of two chinkaras at Bhawad village and a black buck at Mathania village in 1998. He has been in jail twice, for three days in 1998 and six days in 2007 before he received bail.