A court in Rajasthan sentenced actor Salman Khan to five years in prison on Thursday in a 19-year-old poaching case, a verdict that could derail the career of one of Bollywood’s biggest stars.
“A warrant has been issued in his name and he will be sent to central jail,” prosecution lawyer Mahipal Bishnoi told reporters outside the court.
Khan, dressed in a black shirt and blue jeans, was present in court when the judgement was pronounced. The 52-year-old actor will now have to apply to a higher court for bail. Under Indian law, the crime carries a maximum jail sentence of six years, Indian media reported. Khan had pleaded innocent.
Khan and fellow actors Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Neelam Kothari and Sonali Bendre were charged in the killing of two endangered antelopes in 1998 while shooting for the film “Hum Saath-Saath Hain” in Rajasthan. All the other accused were acquitted.
Members of the Bishnoi community, which reveres the antelope, cheered and clapped as news of sentencing came out, TV channels showed.
Khan is arguably India’s biggest star, and most of his films figure in Bollywood’s top box office earners. His last release in December, “Tiger Zinda Hai”, grossed more than 3 billion rupees ($52 million). His next film is an action thriller and scheduled to release during the Eid holiday weekend in August.
This is not Khan’s first brush with the law. In 2015, the Bombay High Court overturned his conviction in a hit-and-run case in which he was accused of running over a homeless man. Last year, another court in Jodhpur acquitted Khan in a separate poaching case, ruling that there was no proof that he killed an endangered gazelle.
The other accused are also big-ticket Bollywood stars. Saif Ali Khan is one of Bollywood’s leading men and is also part of Netflix’s first Indian series, “Sacred Games”. Tabu has been a part of several Bollywood and Hollywood films such as “Life of Pi” and “The Namesake”.
Editing by David Lalmalsawma