Case against Aamir Khan for killing Chinkara animal during the shooting of ‘Lagaan’ quashed

Gujarat High Court: In a major relief to actor Amir Khan and four others in a criminal case involving the killing of Chinkara during the shooting of the film ‘Lagaan’ in 2000, a bench of V.M. Sahai, ACJ., quashed the case of criminal complaint as well as the bailable warrants issued by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Bhuj.

The Counsel for the respondents Mitesh Amin, contended that the case involves a very serious matter as though the permission to use ‘Chinkara’ for the film was refused by the Chief Conservator of Forest, Wildlife, Gandhinagar,  the petitioners used ‘Chinkara’ in the film and thereafter killed the animal after shooting was over. The Counsel relied on the decision of Apex Court in Nupur Talwar v. CBI (2012) 11 SCC 465 and contended that a bailable warrant can be issued on a complaint, and that as per Section 57 of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 the burden of proof is on the petitioners to prove that they have not used live animal in the film. The Counsel for the petitioners Mihir Thakore, contended that before summoning the petitioners, the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate ought to have inquired into the complaint as the entire complaint is based on assumption of imaginary facts.

The Court read Section 57 of the said Act and made it clear that presumption of the guilt of the accused cannot be made in the present case as there is no material on record to establish that the petitioners were in possession, custody or control of any captive animal or animal article. The Court also relied on Preeti Gupta v. State of Jharkhand (2010) 7 SCC 667, where it was held that where no useful purpose is likely to be served by allowing a criminal prosecution to continue, the court may quash the proceeding even though it may be at a preliminary stage.

The Court noted that ‘the complaint is based solely on the scenes in film ‘Lagaan’ which was digitally scanned and edited from few films in London and was inserted into the scenes of the film at studio in Mumbai’, and that ‘no where the place, location from where and as to how, the Chinkara was captured or killed by the petitioners was mentioned in the complaint’. The Court further noted that in the present era of high-tech technology, criminal machinery can never be set in motion on the basis of imaginary scenes of the film.

The Court opined that the case falls in the category of rarest of rare case as it leads to insurmountable harassment, agony and pain to the petitioners as well as to their reputation only on the imagination of the complainant of unknown facts. Accordingly, the Court while exercising inherent power under Section 482 of CrPC quashed and set aside the complaint for being false, frivolous, imaginary and absurd. Aamir Khan v. State of Gujarat, 2015 SCC OnLine Guj 832decided on 08.05.2015

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