The Rajasthan High Court in Jodhpur on Monday acquitted Bollywood actor Salman Khan in blackbuck and chinkaras poaching cases.
While acquitting the actor, the court observed that the pellets recovered from the chinkara were not fired from Salman's licensed gun.
The prosecution also suffered another major blow due to the missing driver of the jeep that was allegedly used my Salman and company for hunting mission.
In 2007, Salman was jailed for nearly a week for shooting an endangered gazelle in 1998.
Appeals of Salman against sentence in the two cases relating to poaching of chinkaras in Bhawad and Mathania was allowed by the high court which acquitted him in both the cases.
Justice Nirmal Jit Kaur rejected the plea of the state government against the actor.
Salman and seven others were accused of killing a blackbuck and chinkaras in two separate incidents. One of the animals was killed at Bhawad on the outskirts of Jodhpur on September 26, 1998, and the other at Ghoda Farms on September 28, 1998.
The trial court had handed him one and five years' imprisonment, respectively, in the two separate cases of poaching on February 17, 2006 and April 10, 2006 respectively.
The convictions were challenged by Salman in the sessions court, which dismissed appeal in Mathanias case and transferred appeal to high court in Bhawads case, where already two appeals by the state government had been pending.
The high court took up these petitions for hearing on November 16, 2015 and were completed on May 13, 2016, after which justice Nirmal Jit Kaur had reserved her judgement.
Salman's lawyer Mahesh Bora had contended that the former had been falsely framed in these cases, merely on the statements of a key witness Harish Dulani, the driver of the vehicle, which was allegedly used in poaching in both these cases.
Bora argued that Dulani was never available to them for cross examination and hence his statements could not be relied upon in conviction of Salman.
He also argued that both of these cases have been built on circumstantial evidences and there was no eye-witness or any material evidence against Salman. The court's, meanwhile, another important observation that worked in favour of the actor was that pellets recovered from the vehicle matching with those, recovered from the possession of Salman.
Defence lawyers also strongly argued that these pellets had been planted since they were not found in the vehicle during forest departments inspection and were found there surprisingly by the police later.
Similarly, the defence also argued that Salman was not in possession of weapons allegedly used in poaching and were brought to Jodhpur from Mumbai only on demand of the forest department.
Also, it was argued that the pellets produced belonged to air gun, which has no capacity at all to kill an animal.
In its reply, the prosecution counsel K. L.Thakur had argued that Dulani was present in the court twice but the defence did not examine him.
Thakur citing the statements of the co-accused, tried to prove the case by corroborating the statements of Dulani, though, some of them had turned hostile in the court later.
Citing the FSL report of the blood stains taken from Hotel Aashirwad, where the carcass said to have been taken by Salman in first case and the blood socked soil from the spot of poaching in second case, Thakur tried to prove that it was chinkara's blood.
Prosecution also produced the FSL report of the tyre marks of the vehicle in question in second case and maintained that out of 6 samples, 4 matched proving that it was the same vehicle, which had gone on spot of poaching.
(With inputs from PTI)