A Bollywood actor has been jailed for five years after being found guilty of poaching a rare species of deer two decades ago.
Salman Khan, one of the superstars of India’s film industry, denied shooting two blackbuck deer in a western India wildlife reserve while filming a movie in 1998.
This is the fourth case filed against Khan in relation to poaching while filming the movie. He was acquitted in the 1998, 2006 and 2007 cases due to lack of evidence.
Four other stars also accused in the case, Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam, were acquitted by Chief Judicial Magistrate Dev Kumar Khatri.
They were in the jeep that Khan was believed to be driving during the hunt.
The blackbuck is an endangered species protected under the Indian Wildlife Act.
The Bishnoi, a religious sect who’s beliefs include worshiping nature and wildlife, have long protected the blackbuck deer.
Chogaram Bishnoi, a member of the community, told reporters that he had seen Khan stopping his jeep and shooting the two blackbucks in a village near Jodhpur in October 1998.
Bollywood quickly rallied to Khan’s defense with several stars speaking out over the sentence on Twitter.
Actor Arjun Rampal wrote: “At this point in time I just feel helpless and my heart goes out to @BeingSalmanKhan and his family.
“Reason, cause the last thing @BeingSalmanKhan is, is a criminal.I feel this is too harsh. I do hope he gets the relief he deserves.”
Chief Judicial Magistrate Dev Kumar Khatri in his ruling called Khan a “habitual offender,” the Economic Times newspaper said.
Khan, 52, who has starred in over 90 Hindi-language films, has had other brushes with the law.
In 2014, the Mumbai High Court acquitted him in a drink-driving hit-and-run case. The judges found prosecutors failed to prove charges of culpable homicide.
Prosecutors accused Khan of driving while intoxicated in 2002 and running over five men sleeping on a pavement, killing one of them.