Jodhpur, April 5 (Reuters): Bollywood superstar Salman Khan was arrested on Thursday after he was given a five-year jail in a 1998 blackbuck killing case.
A Jodhpur court found Salman, one of India’s most recognisable and bankable actors, guilty of hunting two blackbucks while working on the film Hum Saath Saath Hain in 1998.
Prosecution lawyer Mahipal Bishnoi told reporters outside the court, “The court has given a five-year jail term and fined Salman Khan INR10,000.”
The 52-year-old actor was being taken to Jodhpur central jail. Salman, who pleaded not guilty, can still appeal.
Salman will have to approach a higher court for bail. If the sentence was less than three years, the actor could have applied for bail in the same court immediately.
Earlier today, the court acquitted Salman’s co-actors Sonali Bendre, Saif Ali Khan, Neelam and Tabu who were also accused in the case.
The public prosecutor said that they asked for the maximum punishment (of six years). However, Salman’s lawyer had pleaded for minimum sentence.
Salman was accused of killing two blackbucks on October 2, 1998 in Kankani village in Jodhpur.
The case had been in trial for the past 19 years with the conviction given, that if found guilty, Salman would be charged under Section 51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, and may face six years in prison.
The blackbuck is an endangered species and is protected under the Indian Wildlife Act.
Controversial Bad Boy
The 52-year-old has been dogged by multiple charges since undertaking the infamous hunting safari in protected forest land while shooting a film in Rajasthan.
The Bishnois, a Rajasthani tribe seen as custodians of the region´s wildlife, filed a complaint against the actors.
Salman was found guilty of killing gazelles on the hunting trip and served a very brief stint in jail, but was freed on appeal in 2016.
Last year he was also cleared by a court over the alleged use of unlicensed firearms on the expedition. A higher court is challenging his aquittal.
Controversy has followed the Bollywood bad boy since he burst onto the silver screen in the 1980s.
He was cleared in 2015 of killing a homeless man in a hit-and-run accident. That decision is now being challenged in the Supreme Court.
Indian courts can often take years — and sometimes decades — to pronounce verdicts.
He was also accused of assaulting a former Miss World and provoked a firestorm in 2016 by saying his workout schedule for a film left him feeling “like a raped woman”.
But the off-screen drama has done little to dampen his appeal.
The actor known as ‘bhai’, meaning ‘brother’ in Hindi, enjoys a cult-like status with the majority of his devotees young men who envy him for being unmarried at 52.
He remains one of Bollywood´s biggest draws, starring in more than 100 films and television shows.
According to Forbes, he made $37 million in yearly earnings to finish second behind Shah Rukh Khan in the 2017 Bollywood rankings.
Both the Khans are among the top 10 most highly paid actors in the world.
The Bollywood heartthrob´s latest blockbuster Tiger Zinda Hai collected some $85 million worldwide.
This is a developing story and will be updated accordingly.