Bollywood actor Saif Ali Khan and three others denied fresh charges that were framed against them by a Jodhpur court on Saturday for helping B-town superstar Salman Khan in the hunting of a blackbuck in Rajasthan 14 years ago while they were shooting for a film in the state, reports said.
The court framed revised charges against Bollywood actors Salman Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Sonali Bendre and Neelam.
Lawyer K. K. Vyas, who is representing Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Neelam and Sonali Bendre, told media: "The judge called all the accused and read out the fresh charges against them."
Salman Khan was not in the court when the charges were read out to other actors.
His lawyer Hastimal Saraswat told reporters: "Due to illness, Salman was not able to be present before the court. We have filed application for his exemption and the magistrate has accepted our application."
"Charges imposed on Salman were only under Section 51 of Wildlife Protection Act, which has maximum punishment of six years," he said.
The next hearing is on April 27 when the trial begins.
If convicted one can face up to six years in jail. They face charges under section 52 of Wildlife Protection Act.
The blackbuck is an antelope species native to the Indian Subcontinent that has been classified as near threatened by IUCN as the blackbuck range has decreased sharply during the 20th century.
The main threats to the species are poaching, predation, habitat destruction, overgrazing, diseases, inbreeding and sanctuary visitors.
Salman Khan had sought exemption from appearance in court on health grounds, reports said.
The blackbuck killing dates back to 1998 when the actors were shooting there for the film ´Hum Saath Saath Hain´.
All were charged under the Wildlife Protection Act with hunting and inciting to hunt blackbucks, and unlawful assembly.
Salman Khan has been convicted earlier for 1 year and 5 years for poaching of two Chinkaras at Bhawad and one Black Buck at Ghoda Farm (Mathania) in Sept 1998.
In Feb 2006, Salman Khan was sentenced to one year in prison for hunting the Chinkara, an endangered species. The sentence was stayed by a higher court during appeal.
On 10 April 2006, he was handed a five-year jail term for the black buck poaching and remanded to Jodhpur Jail until April 13 when he was granted bail.
On 24 July 2012, Rajasthan High Court finalised charges against Salman Khan and his other colleagues in the endangered black buck killing case, paving way for start of the trial.
The framing of fresh charges against Salman, Saif and others came in the wake of the jail term handed to Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt in the Mumbai serial bombings of 1993.
The Supreme Court on Thursday sentenced Dutt for five years in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case on charges of illegal arms possession linked to the terror attack, invoking sad reactions from the film industry.