The star witness in the blackbuck and chinkara poaching cases against actor Salman Khan, whose absence led to the Rajasthan High Court acquitting him while overturning the verdict of two lower courts sentencing the star to one and five years in prison, has resurfaced, according to a report in the Dainik Bhaskar newspaper.
The man who was driving the jeep used by Bollywood star Salman Khan during an alleged deer hunt in Rajasthan in 1998 today stuck to his claim that the actor had shot the animal.
The statement by Harish Dulani, who was reported to be "missing", came two days after the 50-year-old actor was acquitted by the Rajasthan High Court in two cases related to poaching of Chinkaras in Jodhpur in 1998.
Dulani also maintained that he was not absconding but was only under fear due to threats.
"I stick to the statement I made before the magistrate 18 years ago that Salman got off the car and shot the deer. I was not absconding but I was scared due to several threats received by me and my father," he told NDTV.
"Due to fear I went away to my relatives' place in Jodhpur. We had asked for protection but did not get it. If I had police protection, I could have given a statement. That was what I always intended," he added.
The high court had held that the pellets recovered from the Chinkaras were not fired from Khan's licensed gun.
Dulani, the prosecution's only witness in the poaching cases, was reported missing since 2002, which weakened the prosecution's case against the movie star.
The driver also said that he has been "punished" for being Salman's driver.
"I have been punished for being Salman's driver. I am living my life in fear," he said.
Khan was jailed in 2007 for nearly a week for shooting an endangered Chinkara(gazelle) in 1998.
While arguing the case in the high court, Khan's lawyer had contended that the actor had been falsely framed in these cases, merely on the statements of Dulani, the driver of the vehicle, which was allegedly used in poaching in both these cases.
The lawyer argued that Dulani was never available to them for cross-examination and hence his statements could not be relied upon in the conviction of Khan.
He had also contended that both the cases have been built on circumstantial evidences and there was no eye-witness or any material evidence against Salman.