Blackbuck poaching case: Quit because of transfers, says investigating officer

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In 1998, villagers of the Bishnoi clan in Rajasthan testified against actor Salman Khan and his friends for killing endangered species of animals.

The judgement by a Jodhpur court on Thursday held Khan guilty but gave his accomplices ‘the benefit of the doubt’ and acquitted them. The inquiry officer in the poaching cases, Lalit K. Bora, was happy with the judgement.

An ex-conservator of forests in Jodhpur, Mr Bora says he expected an acquittal for the actor as well since Khan had been acquitted of poaching chinkara in 1998. He had been acquitted in that case in 2016, which was a blow to Mr Bora.

“I had visited the sets of Hum Saath Saath Hain, while the shooting was going on to apprehend the actors. I had received information from residents of Gudha Bishnoi, which is almost 25 km from Jodhpur, that they heard the sounds of gunshots and saw a Maruti Gypsy late at night on October 1, 1998. The villagers also claimed that they tried to stop the vehicle when they saw the injured animals, however, Salman had reportedly pointed a gun at them.”

The villagers had noted the registration number of the vehicle which was the same as the Gypsy van the actors were travelling in.

Mr Bora obtained a statement from Salman Khan’s spot boy that the actor was involved in the killing of two chinkaras at the end of September 1998 and also traced back the meat of the animals that were reportedly consumed by the actors at the hotel.

“I had also checked Salman’s gun licences, both of which had expired. It was hurdle after hurdle in the case. There was no smooth progress. Just when we began to uncover a clue, another hurdle would pop up. The post-mortem report stated that the animals died due to over eating, which was not possible. Each star had a lawyer and I have often felt that I was on the receiving end of the interrogation. I was ridiculed for my post,” says Mr Bora. He was often questioned for his keenness in pursuing the case despite not being in the police force.

While there have been rumours of the officer having had to step down due to pressure, he chose not to comment on it.