Acquitted and free: Why Saif, Sonali, Tabu, Neelam were given the benefit of doubt…


The courts have held Salman Khan guilty in the 1998 Blackbuck poaching case. He has been sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, while Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Sonali Bendre and Neelam, who were with him that fateful night, have been acquitted. However, the Bishnoi Sabha will reportedly appeal against their acquittal.

Here’s a quick recap of the part that Saif, Tabu, Sonali and Neelam had played in this appalling incident…

During the Jodhpur shoot of Hum Saath Saath Hain in 1998, Salman is alleged to have hunted two blackbucks and one chinkara in Kankani village. The blackbuck is an endangered species and there were three cases against Salman - one for killing the chinkara, arms act, and the blackbuck case. Two cases have been resolved, with Salman being acquitted in two poaching cases by the high court and in a case under Arms Act by the lower court. However, it is only now, two decades later, that he has been convicted in the blackbuck case.

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Salman’s co-stars from Hum Saath Saath Hain - Neelam, Shonali Bendre, Saif Ali Khan, Tabu and a local, Dushyant Singh were also accused in the killing. A local from the village Poonamchand Bishnoi who was apparently out in the wild attending to nature’s call, had claimed to be an eyewitness to the killing.

Public prosecutor Bhawani Singh Bhati had said, “All of them were in a Gypsy car that night, with Salman Khan in the driving seat. He, on spotting a herd of blackbucks, shot and killed two of them. But on being spotted and chased, they fled from the spot, leaving the dead animals there.”

Chief Judicial Magistrate Dev Kumar Khatri, while pronouncing the verdict in the case that had been underway for 20 years, called the actor a 'habitual offender'. He ruled that this is why the actor had been convicted, while the others had been given the benefit of the doubt.