Published: 12th April 2018
Salman Khan row: Our justice system has proven that certain people are above the law
A trial court in Jodhpur on April 4, 2018 convicted actor Salman Khan in the two-decade-old blackbuck poaching case and sent him to five years in prison.
Written laws are like spiders’ webs, and will, like them, only entangle and hold the poor and weak, while the rich and powerful will easily break through them.
— Anacharsis, a Scythian traveller and philosopher from 6th century BCE to Solon (638-558 BCE), statesman and lawmaker, when the latter was writing his laws.
This thought has been rephrased by many writers down the ages — like Bacon and Swift — and in newspapers, 2600 years after Anacharsis pronounced on the subject, in the aftermath of convicting Salman Khan on April 5, 2018. Here is a sample excerpt: “If a person violated the law again and again and managed to escape punishment every time, the system of justice would be exposed as faulty and deficient. It is already suffering an erosion of credibility in many ways.” There is more editorialising in this vain. But first, the latest facts and the relevant background.
A trial court in Jodhpur on April 4, 2018 convicted actor Salman Khan in the two-decade-old blackbuck poaching case and sent him to five years in prison. However, five others, namely his co-stars Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Sonali Bendre and Neelam, and a local travel agent Dushyant Singh, were acquitted. Salman was facing charges under Section 9/51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act.
Chief Judicial Magistrate Dev Kumar Khatri, while reading out the seven-page operative part of the 200-page judgment, called the actor a ‘habitual offender’. The order stated: “Salman Khan is not any regular actor; he is a star who has a huge fan following. His fans imitate him and it becomes his responsibility not to break any law.” Hence, the actor has been convicted, while the others have been given the benefit of the doubt, Judge Khatri ruled.
Salman’s lawyer immediately moved a bail application before the Sessions Court after the quantum was pronounced. “It was our humble appeal to the judge to consider him as a common man. We argued for a shorter quantum of sentence. We were hoping that he gets a sentence of less than three years so that we can apply for a bail right here,” it said. Salman was granted bail and his sentence suspended two days later.
The case dates back to October 1998, when Khan, Saif, Neelam, Tabu and Sonali went on a hunting expedition in Kankani and killed two blackbucks. The actors were in Rajasthan, shooting the film Hum Saath Saath Hain. The blackbucks were killed near a village of Bishnois, a community that reveres the blackbuck and is passionate about protecting the animal. Blackbucks are an endangered species and hunting them is prohibited under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
The actor was also charged with keeping arms with an expired license and was charged under the Arms Act. He was acquitted in the case by a trial court in January 2017. There were two more cases against Khan for killing two chinkaras (Indian Gazelle), but he was acquitted by the Rajasthan High Court in July 2016. The prosecution has challenged his acquittal, which is pending before the Supreme Court.
Here is an abridged record of controversy’s blue-eyed child:
In 2002, an inebriated Khan lost control of his vehicle on Hill Road, Mumbai, rammed into the pavement where people were asleep, leaving one person dead. A few others were injured.
In September 2002, he hounded and assaulted Aishwarya Rai and threatened Vivek Oberoi for being in a relationship with Aishwarya.In the 90s, he manhandled a group of press photographers when he was appearing before the Enforcement Directorate.
If readers are unfamiliar with star shenanigans, there are many deviants, but for want of space, just one is enough to make the point; Google the number of paroles Sanjay Dutt got while he was imprisoned in Pune for possession of arms during the notorious Mumbai riots, following the demolition of Babri Masjid.
The subject is open to many views. What are yours? Your response, within 250 words, should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org on or before April 17.
(John B Monterio is a lecturer who drifted into writing and Journalism. He has authored three books and is the founder of the Bondel Laughter Club in Mangalore)