Blackbuck died of natural causes, says Salman. Another acquittal coming up?
While appearing in the Jodhpur High Court to record his statement regarding the 1998 blackbuck poaching case, Salman Khan said that the wild animals had died of 'natural causes'.
In his defence, Salman mentioned that the first forensic report by Dr Nepalia, which had claimed that the animals died of natural causes, was true and rest of the evidence was all false.
The court posed 65-odd questions to the star and according to reports, he is said to have denied all the allegations leveled against him.
The Chief Judicial Magistrate Dalpat Singh Rajpurohit had ordered the accused to appear before the court on 13 January after it had examined all the witnesses of prosecution. Salman is the key accused in the case, the rest are all co-accused.
'I didn't do it!'
When questioned about if he was seen by two people shooting the blackbuck, Salman claimed that it was wrong. He even denied that the jeep he was using had blood stains and hair of the blackbuck as claimed by the investigating team.
The actor also denied going for the shooting at night as claimed by eyewitnesses. Even the others claimed to be innocent.
Interestingly, the forensic report that Salman cited was challenged by the forest department and an FIR was lodged against Nepalia for diluting the case.
Catch had earlier spoken to Lalit Bora, former DFO with Rajasthan Forest Department, who had conducted all the inquiries in the case and had gathered clinching evidence linking Salman to the poaching of the blackbuck.
Bora, who has now retired from the forest department, had spoken at length about the forensic report that Salman cited.
According to him, Nepalia conducted the postmortem on 2 October 1998 and in his report mentioned that the animals had died of natural causes.
"He claimed that the animals had died of overeating and jumping. This was strange considering deer are known for their jumping prowess so we did not accept his report," Bora had told Catch.
It was then that the forest department decided to constitute a board to conduct another postmortem which revealed that there were burn marks and bullet holes on the skin of the blackbuck.
Salman and four of his co-stars were accused of poaching blackbuck late night on 1 October 1998, when they were shooting for Hindi film Hum Saath Saath Hain.
Earlier on 17 January, Khan was acquitted in the illegal arms case after the Jodhpur Court gave him a benefit of doubt for keeping an unlicensed weapon and using it during the deer hunt.
Among other details that Bora shared included the concerted campaign by the Bishnoi community known for their love of animals.
Bora recalled how early morning on 2 October 1998, members of the community visited the Jodhpur forest office claiming two blackbucks had been killed by Salman. According to the Bishnois, they heard fire crackers early morning on 2 October only to find a Gypsy car suspiciously moving around the village.
The villagers then rushed towards the Gypsy and found two dead blackbucks.
Bora claimed that when the villagers tried to stop the vehicle, which was driven by Salman, he pointed a gun at them before fleeing the spot. Further investigation by Bora revealed that the Gypsy belonged to one Arun Yadav who claimed that Harish Dulani was the driver.
During the hunt, Salman had asked Dulani to sit at the back while he and Saif Ali Khan sat in front. Neelam, Tabu and Sonali Bendre sat behind them.
Dulani had disappeared for many years, as claimed by the authorities, only to resurface in July last year when the chinkara case was being heard by the Jodhpur court.
Bora said, "Dulani said Salman would stop the car on spotting a wild animal, and Salman would rest his gun at the top of the vehicle and start shooting indiscriminately. Further, if Salman missed the target, Saif would tease him and ask him to focus."
Bora went on to add that a lot of police and forest officers were backing Salman and the battery of top lawyers hired by these celebrities were putting all sorts of pressure on him.
Bora said that there were times when he felt as if he was the one being interrogated. Under duress, he quit his job after repeated transfers. Bora believes that the blackbuck case would have a similar fate as that of the chinkara case where Salman was acquitted.
Meanwhile, Salman is being represented by Hastimal Sarswat who requested for more time to present a defence witness and was granted permission by the CJM. The next date of hearing is 15 February.
The actor was booked in four cases and this is the only case against him in the trial court. Earlier, the court had acquitted him of the Arms Act case and the two cases related to hunting of chinkaras.
Edited by Jhinuk Sen