Indian court acquits actor Salman Khan of using illegal arms
NEW DELHI: Top Bollywood star Salman Khan was acquitted Wednesday of the charge of using unlicensed arms while hunting for rare blackbucks in a wildlife preserve 18 years ago.
The 51-year-old was present in the court in Jodhpur, a city in Rajasthan state, as Chief Judicial Magistrate Dalpat Singh Rajpurohit announced his acquittal.
The charge was dismissed for lack of evidence, his attorney Hastimal Saraswat said. If convicted, he would have faced up to seven years in prison.
The prosecution argued that the license of a revolver and a rifle allegedly used by Khan had expired in 1998.
As Khan's fans cheered his acquittal, he tweeted: "'Thank you for all the support and good wishes."
The Indian court system is notoriously slow, and it often takes years and even decades for a case to go to trial.
Apart from the illegal arms case, police had filed three poaching cases against Khan during the shoot of one of his films in Jodhpur in 1998.
He was convicted by a lower court and sentenced to one and five years in prison, respectively. But the actor challenged the verdict in a higher court, which said there was no evidence to suggest that the pellets recovered from the animals were fired from Khan's gun. He is still facing trial in a third case for allegedly poaching two rare blackbucks.
Khan has starred in more than 90 Hindi-language films, but has also had brushes with the law.
In 2014, the Mumbai High Court acquitted the actor in a drunken-driving, hit-and-run case from more than a decade ago.
The judges found that prosecutors had failed to prove charges of culpable homicide, in which they accused Khan of driving while intoxicated in 2002 and running over five men sleeping on a sidewalk in Mumbai, killing one of them.
The government of Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, has challenged his acquittal in the Supreme Court.