After 20 years, the law seems to have finally caught up with actor Salman Khan. A local court in Jodhpur sentenced the Bollywood icon to five years in prison after finding him guilty of killing two blackbucks in 1998 – he is also accused of killing three chinkaras. Even though he was acquitted in two other cases, the chief judicial magistrate concerned was not willing to show any leniency in the blackbuck case. He took the position that being a public figure, Khan should have displayed ‘ideal behaviour’ worthy of emulation. Salman is called Big Boss and Tiger, after his popular TV show and screen role. But the blackbuck case has also divided people, some saying the sentence is too harsh, and others insisting that he has finally got what he deserves. The reference is to the battery of lawyers who represented him. The progress in the blackbuck and chinkara cases have been going back and forth, which explains why they have dragged on for nearly two decades. While, he has now been convicted in the blackbuck case, he was discharged by the higher courts in two other reported cases of poaching at Bhawad and Ghoda farms. He was also accused of violating the Arms Act apart from poaching endangered species of wildlife. Khan, who built a reputation for leading the fast life – after all that is what action heroes are all about – does not seem to have learnt from his mistakes, especially after spending time in the same Jodhpur jail where he is now lodged on three earlier occasions in 1998, 2006 and 2007. It reveals two diametrically opposite sides of the superstar. On the one hand is his charity, for which he has been widely lauded. On the other has been an apparent lack of contrition on his part when it comes to the poaching cases against him. On the contrary he has, at times, been churlish and at others displayed all the arrogance that comes with fame. Facing the kind of case that he did, this was not expected of him.
Salman Khan is only the sixth Bollywood figure to have been jailed. In the Mumbai blasts case, Sanjay Dutt did jail time for 42 months for possession of arms and also destroying one AK 52 rifle. Shiny Ahuja, another actor on the cusp of making it, was jailed after a maid accused him of rape in 2011. Sooraj Pancholi was also jailed for allegedly having abetted the suicide of actress-singer Jiah Khan. Another popular actor, Saif Ali Khan, who was also tried in the blackbucks case had to be put behind bars for having punched a businessman in a popular five star hotel. Monica Bedi, an actress was jailed in Hyderabad and served two years after having forged a passport and travelled with underworld don Abu Salem. There is no reason why the biggies in show business should not behave like normal Indian citizens and comply with law. In fact, offenders should be punished in keeping with the prevailing laws and not shown any leniency. If top politicians can be put behind bars why not the actors and actresses that commit heinous crimes? This was also the point that the court in the Salman Khan blackbuck case also made.