New Delhi, Jul 9: The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice to Bollywood film star Salman Khan on a plea by the Rajasthan government challenging the stay on his conviction in a blackbuck hunting case.
The Rajasthan government moved the apex court challenging the Nov 12, 2013, decision of the high court staying the conviction of Salman Khan for the hunting. Salman Khan’s sentence was stayed by the high court Aug 31, 2007.
The Rajasthan government proceeded against Salman Khan, and fellow Bollywood actors Saif Ali Khan, Neelam, Tabu and Sonali Bendre on charges of being involved in hunting of protected blackbuck while they were in the state for shooting a film. But it was Salman Khan who was convicted under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
The apex court bench of Justice Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya and Justice S.A. Bobde issued the notice as the Rajasthan government said the suspension of conviction by the high court was not sustainable as it failed to take into account the serious allegations of illegal hunting of blackbuck against Salman Khan and the findings recorded by the trial court to that effect.
The plea by the state government said the high court did not take into account the alleged involvement of Salman Khan in two more cases. The state government’s plea erred the high court order as it described as “vague” the reasoning for placing the conviction under suspension, holding that the conduct of the film star was up to the mark and he had to travel abroad in connection with his profession.
It said the high court appeared to be impressed that Salman Khan was a celebrity and a famous Bollywood star. The petition said the high court failed to appreciate that everyone was equal before the law and it (law) does not distinguish between a celebrity and a commoner.
Assailing the high court order as a “complete non-application of mind”, the Rajasthan government in its petition said it modified its original order by exempting Salman Khan from taking the court’s prior permission for going abroad and now putting the conviction on hold.
Salman Khan was convicted in the blackbuck hunting case by a trial court April 10, 2006 under the Wildlife (Protection) Act and was awarded a five-years jail term along with a fine of Rs.25,000. The sessions judge Aug 24, 2007, upheld the conviction and sentencing of Salman Khan as it dismissed his appeal against the trial court order.
The Rajasthan High Court by its Aug 31, 2007, order suspended Salman Khan’s sentence, and suspended the order of conviction Nov 12, 2013 as it came in the way of Salman Khan’s foreign travel.
A police complaint was lodged Oct 2, 1998 against Salman Khan and the others for hunting Krishnamrig (blackbuck) deer on the midnight of Sep 28, 1998, within the limits of Mathania village. Salman Khan was arrested Oct 12, 1998, and was released Oct 17 on bail.