Bollywood actor Salman Khan was on Saturday released from the Jodhpur jail after being granted bail by a district and sessions court here in the 1998 blackbuck poaching case in which he was sentenced to five years in jail.
Immediately after his release, Khan, 52, was driven under police escort to the airport here, a police official said.
Khan walked out of the jail after the prison authorities received the court papers granting him bail, the official said.
Earlier, a Jodhpur Court granted bail to Bollywood actor Salman Khanon a surety of Rs 50,000. As per reports, the actor's fans have begun their celebrations as the superstar is set to walk free.
Salman Khan's lawyer had filed the bail application in the court on Friday (April 6). Judge Ravindra Kumar Joshi had, on Friday, put off the hearing by a day as he wanted to see the entire case record before deciding whether Salman Khan should be granted bail.
The prosecution had opposed the bail to Salman Khan stating that the eye witness accounts make a strong case against the superstar.
#Rajasthan: District & sessions court judge Ravindra Kumar Joshi arrives at Jodhpur Court, he will be hearing #SalmanKhan's bail plea. Khan was awarded a 5-year jail term in #BlackBuckPaochingCase. pic.twitter.com/9GsbkO6uTn— ANI (@ANI) April 7, 2018
Interestingly, Joshi, the Jodhpur Sessions Judge, was among 87 sessions court judges who were transferred. Dev Kumar Khatri, the judge who sent Salman Khan to jail for killing two blackbucks 20 years ago, has also been transferred out in the major reshuffle of Rajasthan's judicial officers ordered by the High Court.
Salman Khan has now spent two nights in Jodhpur Central Jail after he was convicted on Thursday. This was Salman's fourth stint in the Jodhpur Central Jail, which also houses religious preacher Asaram Bapu, who has been accused of rape. Salman has earlier spent a total of 18 days in the jail in 1998, 2006 and 2007, all for cases of poaching.
Khan was lodged in the barracks next to rape accused self-styled 'godman' Asaram, and jail officials said the two exchanged pleasantries on Thursday before retiring for the night. The actor, who is prisoner No. 106, rested for three hours in the afternoon after a lunch of dal, mixed vegetable and chapatti, said an HT report.
Bollywood actors Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam, who were the co-accused in the case, were acquitted by the court on Thursday. Khan and other actors were accused of poaching blackbucks on the midnight of October 1-2, 1998 during the filming of the Hindi movie Hum Saath Saath Hain.
Villagers of the Bishnoi community, who filed the case against the actors and pursued the poaching case for almost two decades, celebrated on Thursday after Salman Khan's conviction.
Final arguments of the case were completed in the trial court on March 28, after which Chief Judicial Magistrate Dev Kumar Khatri had reserved the judgment.
Salman was convicted in one of the cases in 2006 and was sentenced to five years in jail. While the actor spent a week in jail, the sentence was suspended by the Rajasthan High Court. The actor was also booked under the Arms Act as the licence of the gun he allegedly used while hunting had expired. However, the charges were later dropped due to lack of evidence.
Here's the timeline of blackbuck poaching case:
15th October, 1998: Forest department filed a case against Salman for allegedly possessing an arm with an expired license and killing two blackbucks in Kankani village in Jodhpur.
October 2, 1998: A police complaint was filed against the five actors Salman Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam for allegedly killing two blackbucks while they were shooting for the movie Hum Sath Sath Hain in Rajasthan's Jodhpur.
17 October, 1998: Khan was released on bail days after he was arrested.
April 10, 2006: Salman Khan convicted in the blackbuck hunting case. He was slapped with a fine and sentenced to five years in jail. He spent a week in jail in Jodhpur before being granted bail.
August 31, 2006: The Rajasthan Court suspended the sentence and ordered the actor to not leave the country without formal permission.
December 18, 2014: Court rejected Khan's plea seeking permission to summon Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) and District Magistrate(DM) of Mumbai as witnesses in the case.
April 29, 2015: Khan appeared in Jodhpur court to record his statement.
July 25, 2016: The Rajasthan High Court acquitted Salman Khan of all charges in the blackbuck poaching case. The High Court said that there was no evidence to prove that the animals which were found dead were shot by the actor's licensed gun.
October 19, 2016: Rajasthan government again appeals to the Supreme Court challenging the High Court's decision.
November 11, 2016: Salman Khan was issued notice by the Supreme Court on an appeal by the Rajasthan government challenging his acquittal in blackbuck poaching case. The top court agrees to fast-track the plea.
Jan 18, 2017: Khan was acquitted of all charges by Jodhpur court.
April 5, 2018: A Jodhpur court has convicted Bollywood superstar Salman Khan in the 1998 blackbuck poaching case, while other actors -Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Sonali Bendre and Neelam Kothari - have been acquitted.