The sporty, ever-exercising lover boy of Maine Pyar Kiya (1989) who could pull a punch or two if the need be turned into a Baaghi (1990) for love almost immediately after. It was smooth sailing for many years thereafter. But by the time he was family-loving boy swearing Hum Saath Saath Hain (1999) some nine years later, he was also hunting Chinkaras, an endangered species protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, and, for that reason, found himself in face of the law’s ire.
But that was not his only brush with the law. In 2002, he had downed a few pegs of liquor in excess, which blurred the fine distinction between the road and the pavement for him resulting in the death of one and serious injuries to three other. The charges of culpable homicide were quickly slapped against the muscleman, but had to be dropped later.
The Chinkaras case, however, badly embroiled two of the Bollywood’s leading Khans of that time – the other one being Saif Ali Khan, the star son of the star cricketer, Nawab Pataudi, and the star actress of the yesteryears, Sharmila Tagore.
The ill-fated Chinkaras brought bad times upon the actors when, in 1998, during the shooting of Hum Saath Saath Hain , Salman and Saif with Tabu, Sonali Bendre and Neelam decided to have some fun at the expense of the helpless animals and ended up killing a Chinkara and two Black Bucks. Perhaps the stars either did not know, or did not care that killing animals for fun was not legal, particularly when it came to those animals that were ‘protected’ by the law. The stardom collided with the law, and the State pressed charges.
The prosecution began and Salman was found guilty while others were let off. The star was sentenced to five years in prison and was also fined by Chief Judicial Magistrate Brijendra Kumar Jain on February 17, 2006.
Salman’s lawyers tried their best to wriggle out of the legal tangle, but the police had a strong case and the court did not find much merit in the argument that it was not the Forest Department but the police that had chosen to prosecute the actor. It was also argued by Salman’s lawyers that since the driver of the gypsy involved in the incident was absconding, Salman could not be convicted because the driver was a key witness in the case.
When the driver went missing, one of Salman’s lawyers, Hastimal Saraswat, reportedly told the CNN-IBN, “The court has initiated proceedings against the key eyewitness Gypsy driver Harish Dulani in this case, he went absconding right after having given his testimony. How can Salman be sentenced on the basis of the testimony of an absconder?”
The lawyers also claimed that the forensic evidence relied upon in the case was inconclusive and could not and did not form a strong basis for Salman’s conviction.
The law had been violated and the police was dutybound to bring the violators to the court and have them punished in accordance with the law. The celebrity status was not to be allowed to interfere with justice. So, Salman’s lawyers tried their best to get him off the hook, but the prosecution never seemed to lose its grip on the case culminating in Salman’s conviction.
The Aishwarya Rai controversy
Year 2002 did not serve Salman well in many ways. He not only got involved in a road accident that resulted in his being slapped with several criminal charges, but also brought a break-up with Aishwarya and the subsequent agony to both.
The break-up happened in March, 2002, but, if Aishwarya is to be believed, Salman had not been able to accept the fact that she and he were no longer together. She reportedly told that Salman would repeatedly call her and if she did not take his calls, he inflicted physical injuries on his person.
Aishwarya was quoted by The Times of India as having said, “After we broke up, he would call me and talk rubbish. He also suspected me of having affairs with my co-stars. I was linked up with everyone, from Abhishekh Bachchan to Shah Rukh Khan. There were times when Salman got physical with me, luckily without leaving any marks. And I would go to work as if nothing had happened.” However, the relationship survived the continuous maltreatment that Aishwarya got at Salman’s hands. The break-up occurred when Salman confessed to cheating to Aishwarya herself.
Salman allegedly threatened Aishwarya with dire consequences on phone boasting of his connections with the underworld. Aishwarya’s parents pressed charges against Salman, and the police took serious note. However, the investigation revealed that the tapes were fake resulting in the police dropping the charges. The Salman-Aishwarya saga finally ended with Aishwarya marrying Abhishek Bachchan.
The Chinkara and Black Buck cases are yet to reach finality, and the same goes for the accident Salman was involved in, which resulted in the death of a pavement dweller. Salman has fallen foul with the law for quite some time now. Let’s hope he keeps it that way.
Originally written for and published in LAWYERS UPDATE at part of ‘THE LAW AND THE CELEBRITIES‘ series in April 2011.