JAIPUR: Bollywood actor Salman Khan and his ‘Hum Saath-Saath Hain’ co-stars Saif Ali Khan, Neelam Kothari, Sonali Bendre and Tabu, pleaded ‘not guilty’ in an 18-year-old blackbuck poaching case in a Jodhpur court on Friday.
The actors were present in the court to get their statements recorded before the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) Dalpat Singh Rajpurohit.
The CJM court had earlier asked the Bollywood celebrities to appear on January 25 to record statement, but the stars, including Salman and Saif, did not come on that day citing security reasons. The court then postponed the matter for Friday.
The case against all cine stars is pending since 1998, but it could not come for hearing and remained stalled due to several appeals and revisions in the higher court in other connected matters. During the course of hearing on Friday, Salman replied to as many as 65 questions posed by the court in regard to the allegations leveled by the prosecution witnesses.
Salman and the other actors also replied to a few general questions like names, father’s name, age, residential address and caste. To a question with regard to his religion, Salman said that “I’m Hindu and Muslim both. I’m Bhartiya”. He subsequently said in English that I’m an Indian.
Asked about the allegations levelled by the prosecution, the stars pleaded ‘not guilty’. Salman in his reply said that he couldn’t have gone out for poaching due to security reasons, especially in the evenings or night.
Salman and Saif stayed in the court for around half an hour and an hour respectively. The actresses had to remain in court for around two hours. “We will produce defence witnesses to counter the prosecution as all the allegations are untrue,” Hastimal Sarswat, Salman’s advocate said.
Relatives of the film stars, including Salman’s sister Alvira and his bodyguard Shera, were also present during the court proceedings. All the five Bollywood actors are accused of poaching blackbucks on the midnight of October 1-2, 1998, during the shooting of ‘Hum Saath-Saath Hain’.
Two blackbucks, a protected animal under the Wildlife Protection Act, were killed in the outskirts of Kankani village near Jodhpur. Salman was accused of carrying and using illegal arms too, but recently the CJM court acquitted him of the charges.