In a relief to actor Salman Khan and four others, the Supreme Court on Thursday refused to invoke the charge of rioting against them in a 15-year-old blackbuck poaching case and dismissed an appeal by the Rajasthan government in this regard. The actors have been accused of poaching two blackbucks in October 1998, in Kankani village near Jodhpur, during the shooting of the film Hum Saath Saath Hain.
The state government had challenged the High Court decision to charge Khan only under Section 51 of Wildlife Act, for allegedly killing the protected animal, and Section 149 of the IPC (unlawful assembly). While Section 51 entails jail term of up to three years, with our without fine, Section 149 provides for punishment in terms of the main offence.
Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Neelam and Sonali Bendre, who were reported to have accompanied Khan, were charged under Section 52 (attempts to contravene, or abet the contravention of, any of the provisions of this Act) of Wildlife Act and also Section 149 of the IPC.
However, the state government, in its appeal before the apex court, claimed that the HC had erroneously dropped the charge of rioting against the actors since it failed to appreciate that their action would directly fall under “violence” as defined for rioting under Section 146 of the IPC.
The Bench noted that the charges under the Wildlife Act had been retained by the High Court after due examination of the matter.