New Delhi: The Supreme Court Wednesday reserved its order on the Rajasthan government’s appeal challenging a state high court order staying the conviction of Bollywood star Salman Khan so that he could travel to Britain for a film engagement.
A bench of Justice Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said Salman suffered no hardship as the stay of his sentencing by the high court Aug 31, 2007 permitted him to continue pursuing his film career, including travel abroad.
The court gave Salman and the Rajasthan government three days to file written submissions.
It said the suspension of sentence removed all hurdles in the way of Salman in pursuing his film career, and added that there was no need for any “further order addressing your hardship” (to get visa to travel to Britain).
“The remedy of your hardship for being unable to travel to Britain lies somewhere else,” the court said, hinting towards the British High Commission’s decision to refuse him visa on the grounds that suspension of sentence was not enough and his conviction still persisted could be challenged before courts in Britain.
The court compared the hardship Salman faced with that of politicians who lose their legislature seats after being convicted and sentenced for two years.
The bench said this as counsel Siddharth Luthra, appearing for Salman, tried to impress upon the court that his client be considered for the grant of visa by the British High Commission and the same would not happen unless Salman’s conviction remained stayed.
In a poser to Luthra, the court asked even if the conviction was stayed, how was it going to benefit Salman.
“After the stay of sentencing, you are allowed to carry on with your film profession and go abroad. All sorts of orders are in your favour,” it said.
“Even if conviction is stayed, the fact of (Salman’s) conviction will remain,” it said.
Counsel V. Prakash, appearing for the Rajasthan government, contended that Salman’s conviction could not be stayed merely because it comes in the way of his getting a British visa.
The Rajasthan High Court had suspended Salman’s conviction Nov 12, 2013.
Salman along with Sonali Bendre, Tabu, Neelam and others were accused of hunting the protected blackbuck in Rajasthan while shooting for the film “Hum Saath Saath Hain”.
Salman was convicted by a trial court April 10, 2006 under the Wild Life (Protection) Act and was sentenced to five years in jail along with a fine of Rs.25,000.
The sessions judge Aug 24, 2007, upheld the conviction and sentencing, and dismissed his appeal against the trial court order.
The Rajasthan High Court by its order of Aug 31, 2007, suspended the sentence, and the order of conviction Nov 12, 2013 as it came in the way of Salman’s foreign travel.
A police complaint was lodged Oct 2, 1998 against Salman and others for hunting Krishunmurg (blackbuck) dear on the night of Sep 28, 1998, within the limits of Mathania village in Rajasthan.
The actor was arrested Oct 12, 1998, but later got bail.