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The five actors, along with two others — Dushyant Singh (a local travel agent) and Dinesh Gawre (said to be Salman’s assistant at that time) — are accused of poaching the endangered animals at Johdpur’s Kankani village on the night of October 1-2, 1998. Gawre is still absconding, so the police investigation against him is pending, while the remaining six have undergone trial and will remain present in the courtroom when the verdict is pronounced on Thursday.
The court of chief judicial magistrate (Jodhpur rural) Dev Kumar Khatri is to pronounce judgment in the poaching case that was registered during the shooting of Bollywood film ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’. This is last of the three poaching cases and an Arms Act case against Salman from the infamous poaching incidents of 1998 to be decided by the trial court here. Before this, Salman has been acquitted in the Arms Act case. He was convicted in two poaching cases but the Rajasthan high court later acquitted him in both the cases. The prosecution has, however, filed appeals against all these acquittals and the cases are pending at various stages in different courts.
The local police have made elaborate security arrangements around the court premises considering the threat perception to Salman. A Punjaborigin gangster, Lawrence Bishnoi, arrested by the Jodhpur police last year, had issued life threats to the Bollywood star for reasons unknown.
According to the poaching case’s public prosecutor Bhawani Singh Bhati, Salman is charged under section 51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act whereas the rest of the accused face charges under the same section but read with IPC section 149, which points to unlawful assembly. “Salman is accused of killing two blackbucks, while the other accused were with him when the crime was committed,” Bhati told TOI.
He added, “The minimum sentence, if they are convicted, is one year whereas the maximum sentence is six years.” The Jodhpur Central Jail administration has geared up to receive the actors, in case they are convicted by the court.
“We have earmarked the barracks and checked all the arrangements for them if they are to be lodged in jail after the verdict,” said jail superintendent Vikram Singh.
Referring to life threats to Salman and presence of Lawrence Bishnoi’s men in Jodhpur jail, Singh claimed that all actors would be safe in the jail.
Jodhpur police too have put in adequate security arrangements at the court premises keeping in view the expected huge convergence of fans of the film actors.
“We have made a three-layer security arrangement around the court and roped in a large contingent of the police force with an additional DCP leading the policemen,” said DCP Aman Deep Singh.
In view of the impending threat by gangster Bishnoi, the city police have been keeping extra precaution and not willing to take any chances. During one of his appearances in a court case here, Bishnoi had threatened to kill Salman in Jodhpur itself. Bishnoi is allegedly involved in a series of gang-wars and murders in Rajasthan cities, including Jodhpur, where his henchmen triggered a series of shooting incidents and a murder earlier.