Bollywood’s enfant terrible, Salman Khan, will get bail by the time you finish reading this on Friday morning after his conviction for five years on Thursday for killing two blackbuck. The court, however, acquitted his co-stars in the movie Hum Saath Saath Hain — Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Neelam and Sonali Bendre — giving them the “benefit of the doubt”.
All the actors, in Jodhpur for a shoot, were allegedly in a Gypsy that fateful night with Salman in the driving seat. He spotted a herd of blackbuck and killed two of them, the prosecution had said. The court order said that Salman is a famous actor and any deed done by him will be followed by masses; despite knowing this he killed two blackbuck. He killed them for enjoyment, the judge observed.
This is the third time Salman has got five years in jail. In April 2006, a Jodhpur court gave Salman five years for killing two chinkaras, while in 2015 he again got five years for killing a homeless man while driving drunk in a 2002 hit-and-run case at Bandra. (Later, he was acquitted in the hit and run case). Salman will probably get bail because his lawyers will assure the superior court that the actor will not interfere with the witnesses and will not escape from India because he is a celebrity.
Although all are equal before the law, some are more equal than others because they can hire the top lawyers in the country to procure bail and escape jail. And exploit the fact that it took the judiciary 19 years to convict Salman. Never mind the fact that 28 witnesses had to be cross examined. And Salman’s lawyers kept exploiting loopholes to go to the high court and Supreme Court.
After his conviction in the 2002 hit-and-run case, Justice A.R. Joshi of the Bombay high court pointed out flaws in a seemingly flawless judgment of trial court Judge D.W. Deshpande. The high court acquitted the actor which resulted in an appeal to the Supreme Court. On Thursday, Judge Dev Kumar Khatri’s judgment convicting Salman for killing two blackbuck alluded to Salman’s four earlier cases of poaching chinkaras. Judge Khatri noted that the trial court had convicted him but he was later acquitted by the Jaipur high court. “A role model like this actor should behave more responsibly,” the judge noted.
Like Judge Deshpande’s judgment, this 400-page judgment appears flawless. But like the 2002 hit-and-run case, even flawless judgments can be made flawed by a doubting high court judge whose doubts are reinforced by lawyers who are experts at manufacturing flaws.
Salman Khan was convicted simply because the blood of the two slain blackbuck matched with those found in Salman’s vehicle and the Bishnoi eyewitnesses stuck to their testimony unlike in the 2002 hit-and-run case where a vital eyewitness, Ravindra Patil, was left to die of tuberculosis because he refused to backtrack from telling the police that Salman was drunk while at the wheel.
On Thursday, Salman Khan had to spend the first night of his five-year-jail-term in Jodhpur’s stifling central prison, next to celebrity Godman-turned-rape accused Asaram Bapu. If Salman gets instant bail, the way he did in the Bombay high court after his conviction, it will make a mockery of his sentence. He will never spend the full five-year term in jail because his legal eagles will definitely procure bail before getting a stay on the five-year sentence.
The Bishnoi Sabha, a community committed to protect the black bucks, has decided to appeal against the four acquittals of Salman’s alleged accomplices. None of the actors showed the slightest remorse. Section 51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act carries a maximum punishment of six years and a minimum one-year jail term. If Salman had got less than three years, he would have got bail. In any case, he still might tomorrow. Wait and watch.
WHY BENEFIT TO OTHERS?
The Jodhpur court has acquitted Salman’s co-stars in the movie Hum Saath Saath Hain and his alleged accomplices — Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Neelam and Sonali Bendre — giving them the “benefit of the doubt”. Salman’s lawyer lamented after the conviction that the court has acquitted his alleged accomplices for the same offence and in the same case. This would imply that Salman was out hunting alone in the middle of the night in a remote area outside Jodhpur! All the actors, in Jodhpur for a shoot, were allegedly in a Gypsy that fateful night with Salman in the driving seat. He spotted
a herd of blackbuck and killed two of them, the prosecution had said. The Bishnoi Sabha, a community committed to protect the black bucks, has decided to appeal against the four acquittals.
Pak minister not pleased
Salman Khan’s conviction has not pleased Pakistan foreign minister Khawaja Asif who gave a rather skewed rationale behind the sentencing, attributing his fate to the star’s religion. He said that ‘‘Khan was sentenced because he is from a minority community.’’ The Minister was speaking during a discussion on Geo TV’s news programme Capital Talk. He further added, “To sentence him in a case that is twenty years old goes on to show that lives of those who are Muslims, ‘untouchables’ or Christians are not valued in India.” In a blatant attack on the ruling BJP, Khawaja Asif went on in the same vein: “May be, if he belonged to the religion of the ruling party of India he would not have been given such a harsh sentence and the court might have been lenient with him.”
Salman Khan had said in an interview to NDTV that cases against him have been dragging on for years as questions would be raised about the judge’s integrity if he was acquitted and the case wrapped up too soon. “It would take a Dabangg (fearless) judge to set me free,” Salman Khan had said, referring to the title of his megahit film.
NOT EATING ANYTHING
According to jail officials, Salman Khan has not eaten anything since the verdict and even refused to have tea. He was offered a cauliflower and a potato dish, a dal and chappatis. Officials also said that Salman would sleep on the floor. They added that his BP had shot up after the verdict but is normal now.
The actor is being kept in ward number 106. Currently, he is wearing his own clothes, but will be given jail clothes once the jail store opens on Friday morning.
ASARAM FOR COMPANY: The other distinguished inmate of the jail is Asaram Bapu, the spiritual leader accused of raping a schoolgirl in 2013.