New Delhi: Bollywood actor Salman Khan’s troubles seem to have deepened with the Supreme Court on Friday taking exception to the Rajasthan High Court’s order staying his conviction in the blackbuck killing case, and allowing him to travel to the UK for the shoot of film 'Kick'.
Khan, sentenced to five years in jail for killing black bucks during the shooting of a Hindi film in Rajasthan in 1998, had obtained stay from the high court citing that authorities in the UK had rejected his entry visa on the grounds that he had been convicted in a case.
Criticising the Nov 2013 HC order, a bench headed by Justice SJ Mukhopadhyay wanted to know whether court could grant stay on a conviction on the ground taken by the actor.
Observing that a conviction could be stayed only under special circumstances, the court said: "It will set a bad precedent. Every convict will ask for similar concessions".
The court's remark came after Khan's counsel, advocate KV Vishwanathan, had argued that the HC order was legitimate as it fell under the parameter laid down by the apex court in cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu case.
The bench, however, said facts and circumstances of that case were different from this. "The law should be same for all, and parameter too should be same for all the accused," the court said, and asked the parties to file rejoinders so that the court could pass the final order on Oct 28.
Rajasthan government had moved the apex court against the HC order saying "the high court was impressed because the convict was a celebrity actor."
Khan's affidavit in response contended that he was one of the highest tax payers in the country and that it was his fundamental right to practice his profession, which involved wide travelling for film shooting.
"I am one of the highest individual tax payers in India... I am a philanthropist and associated with charitable trusts. My professional engagements generate taxable revenue and help in bringing foreign exchange:, said Khan.
"My professional engagements also help in promoting Indian film industry globally and for generating employment and encouraging cross cultural collaboration between film makers across the world,'' Khan added.
Khan was convicted and sentenced under the Wildlife Protection Act by a Jodhpur magistrate court in 2006. The sentence was upheld by the sessions court in 2007. On Aug 31, 2007 HC suspended his sentence, but imposed a condition that he should not leave the country without court's prior permission.
However, last November, HC altered its previous condition on travel abroad and stayed the conviction after accepting his submission that he would not be able to obtain a UK visa due to the conviction.
A complaint was filed against actors Salman Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Neelam, Tabu and Sonali Bendre, charging them with hunting protected black bucks. They were accused of poaching two black bucks in Kank village, near Jodhpur, in 1998 October. The alleged incident took place during the shooting of 'Hum Saath Saath Hain'.