Salman Khan was acquitted by an Indian court on Wednesday of using unlicensed firearms to kill protected wildlife almost two decades ago.
The Bollywood superstar has now been acquitted in three out of four cases filed against him for hunting rare black bucks, a native species of antelope, while shooting a film in the northwestern state of Rajasthan in 1998.
Sporting dark sunglasses, the 51-year-old was in court to hear the verdict as hundreds of police deployed outside tried to keep the crowds of fans under control.
“He was charged under two sections of the Arms Act and he has been cleared in both,” Hastimal Saraswat, a defense lawyer, told reporters outside the court in Jodhpur city.
“He was acquitted due to lack of conclusive evidence.” While pronouncing the acquittal, magistrate Dalpat Singh Rajpurohit said the prosecution could not prove that Khan possessed and used fire arms with expired license. Prosecution counsel B. S. Bhati said they would appeal the verdict after studying the 102-page order. The actor still faces a fourth case on charges of poaching black bucks.
Khan, known for playing a tough guy in Hindi films, had accused the state forest department of framing him in the case.
Shortly after Wednesday’s verdict, Khan thanked his fans for their “support and good wishes” on Twitter where he has 21.1 million followers.
The actor is one of the Indian movie industry’s biggest draws and has starred in more than 100 films and television shows.
Last year his movie Sultan, in which he played an ageing wrestler, smashed Bollywood’s box office records.
But Khan is no stranger to controversy and in 2015 he was cleared in another long-running case of killing a homeless man in a hit-and-run crash. That decision is now being challenged in the Supreme Court. Indian courts can often take years — and sometimes decades — to pronounce verdicts. -AFP