Days after the Rajasthan High Court acquitted Salman Khan in the poaching of endangered animals cases, a 'missing' key witness on Wednesday resurfaced and said that he stands by his claim that the actor shot the animal.
“I stick to the statement I made before the magistrate 18 years ago that Salman got off the car and shot the deer,” Harish Dulani told a TV channel.
Dulani was the driver of the Gypsy that was used allegedly by Salman and his friends during a hunting trip in Rajasthan.
The case tilted in favour of Salman as the key witness, Dulani, was reported to be missing.
Dulani claimed that he was not absconding but he was living in fear.
“I was not absconding but I was scared due to several threats received by me and my father,” he said. "Due to fear I went away to my relatives’ place in Jodhpur. We had asked for protection but did not get it. If I had police protection, I could have given a statement. That was what I always intended.”
Salman and seven others were accused of going on a hunting mission during the filming of Hum Saath Saath Hain in 1998 and shot dead three chinkaras or Indian Gazelle in two separate incidents.
Two chinkaras were allegedly killed at Bhawad in Mathania near Jodhpur on September 26, and another at Ghoda Farms on September 28, 1998.
Chinkara is an endangered animal and protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
Dulani's testimony that he witnessed Salman hunting the animals provided the grounds for launching a court trial against the actor.
Dulani's statement against Salman was examined by the court of the chief judicial magistrate in January, 2002. He went missing after this and was not available for cross-examination for defence.
Despite repeated summons, Dulani's unwillingness to take part in the trial against the actor drew the wrath of the court. The court finally stopped summoning him in the case in 2005 and ordered prosecution proceedings against Dulani. While he appeared in court in connection with this, he was not available only for the case against Salman.
Salman found not-guilty
In 2006, a trial court had found Salman guilty of killing three chinkaras in two separate cases and sentenced him to serve one year and five years in prison, respectively. He was sent to the Central Jail in Jodhpur before being granted bail.
Salman challenged the convictions in the sessions court, which dismissed appeal in the Mathania case and transferred appeal in the Bhawad case to High Court, 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.
Justice Nirmal Jit Kaur on Monday acquitting Salman in the poaching cases said that the pellets recovered from the chinkaras were not fired from Salman's licensed gun. And, Dulani's absence weakened the case for the prosecution against the actor.
The actor's acquittal had sparked a debate, with many expressing a lack of confidence in the functioning of the country’s legal system.
One of the prominet personalities to question the verdict in the poaching cases was actor Renuka Shahane, Salman's co-star in several movies.
In a lengthy and pun-filled Facebook post, she raised some important questions in connection with the cases asking, if not Salman, “who killed the Black Buck & the Chinkaras?”
The actor is, however, not completely off the hook. He is facing two other cases, including one under the Arms act and another for allegedly poaching a blackbuck, in Jodhpur courts.