Salman Khan, the famed Bollywood actor caught up in the midst of a protracted legal battle over a 1998 poaching incident, was granted bail after serving just two days of a five-year sentence, The Toronto Star is reporting.
Once he puts up the 50,000 rupees (about $770 U.S.), and once all of the legal paperwork is completed, Khan will walk away a free man from a jail in Jodhpur, in western India, while his appeal makes its way through the courts. At this point it bears noting that, as these words are being typed, it’s mid-Saturday evening in Jodhpur, meaning that Khan may very well be free as of this writing.
The Toronto Star reported earlier this week that back in 1998, Khan and three friends – Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam – were hunting at a game reserve in western India. What happened next remains a matter of dispute, but two blackbuck deer – an endangered species of antelope – wound up dead.
Criminal courts later acquitted Khan’s hunting companions, but Khan remains accused of the crime of poaching.
On Thursday, Chief Judicial Magistrate Dev Kumar Khatri sentenced Khan to five years in prison. In his ruling, Khatri referred to Khan as a “habitual offender.”
This is not Khan’s first run-in with the law. In fact, his career has been defined as much by his legal troubles as his stunning popularity. In the 1998 poaching case alone, he’s spent a total of 18 days in prison, doing time in 1998, 2006 and 2007 before being released. He’s also been acquitted on related criminal poaching cases.
What’s more, in 2002, he was accused of running over five men who were sleeping on a sidewalk, killing one of them, in a drunk-driving fatality. He was later acquitted. He’s also been known for his “troubled” relationships with women.
Regarding the poaching case, the protracted legal battle, the sentence perceived by some as being too light, and yet another release on bail, has upset India’s Bishnoi community. The religious sect, which reveres nature and wildlife, is intensely protective of the endangered antelope.
At Khan’s home in Mumbai, fans set off firecrackers in celebration of the popular Bollywood star’s release, according to Reuters.
Reuters noted that the Indian film industry relies heavily on Khan’s popularity for box office receipts. His most recent release, Tiger Zinda Hai, grossed more than 3 billion rupees ($52 million) at the box office. His next film, Race 3, is scheduled for release later this year.