NEW DELHI (AP) — Bollywood star Salman Khan was acquitted of shooting and killing three endangered animals nearly two decades ago in a verdict Monday that overturned a lower court's ruling that would have sent the popular leading man to jail.
Khan and seven other people, including Bollywood actors, were accused of killing a gazelle and two antelopes over two days in 1998 while filming a movie in Rajasthan state.
Two poaching cases were filed against Khan and he was convicted by a lower court and sentenced to jail terms of one and five years respectively. But the actor challenged the verdict in a higher court, which said there was no evidence to suggest that the pellets recovered from the animals were fired from Khan's licensed gun.
Khan was not present in the court in Jodhpur city in Rajasthan. The state prosecutor said the verdict would be reviewed before a decision is made on whether to appeal.
Khan has starred in more than 90 Hindi-language films, but has also had brushes with the law.
Last year, the Mumbai High Court acquitted the actor in a drunken-driving, hit-and-run case from more than a decade ago.
The judges found that prosecutors had failed to prove charges of culpable homicide, in which they accused Khan of driving while intoxicated in 2002 and running over five men sleeping on a sidewalk in Mumbai, killing one of them.
The government of Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, has challenged his acquittal in the Supreme Court.
Last month, Khan caused a public uproar by telling reporters that shooting his new movie "Sultan" was so grueling that he felt like a raped woman.
The actor's analogy struck a painful chord in India, where sexual violence against women is rampant. Khan has refused to apologize for his remarks and has ignored repeated summons from India's leading women's rights panel, the National Commission for Women, to explain his remarks.
Khan's comments were considered particularly damaging given his immense popularity as a leading romance and action star in India's film industry. In recent years the star has turned to philanthropy, establishing a charitable trust called "Being Human" which works in education and health care for the poor.