Millennium Post

Salman: Raj govt seeks surrender, Coke ‘drops’ him

Bollywood superstar suffered a twin blow on Wednesday, as Rajasthan challenged his acquittal in two poaching cases, and he was dropped as Coca Cola’s brand ambassador.

Actor Salman Khan should be ordered to surrender immediately so he can return to jail in two poaching cases, the Rajasthan government has told the Supreme Court.

In July, the Rajasthan High Court found  Khan not guilty killing an endangered species of gazelle or chinkara in two separate incidents in 1998 while he was shooting a film in the desert state.

The state government on Wednesday challenged his acquittal and wants him to be imprisoned to serve the rest of his sentence- after being convicted in 2007 for hunting down and killing the chinkaras, he was awarded a one-year prison term and a five-year prison term respectively. He then spent a week in jail in Jodhpur before being granted bail.

While finding him not guilty, the High Court said there was no evidence to prove that the animals who were found dead were shot by Khan’s licensed gun. A key witness, the driver of the jeep that was used by Salman Khan and his co-stars for their alleged hunt was missing, the prosecution admitted, which considerably weakened the case against the actor. But just days later, the driver Harish Dulani was tracked down, Dulani who said that he saw Salman shoot the chinkara, but had dodged testifying in court because he had been threatened.  

Meanwhile, beverages major Coca Cola India dropped Bollywood superstar Salman Khan as brand ambassador for its soft drink ‘Thums Up’ after four years of association and the company is in talks with young star Ranveer Singh to replace him.

The contract with Khan had expired last month and the company has chosen not to renew it, according to industry sources.

When contacted, Coca Cola India declined to comment.

The company’s decision to not to renew the contract with the 50-year-old actor is more to do with the image of Coca Cola, which is seen as a young brand, a source said.

“That explains why Coca Cola is talking to a much younger star like Ranveer Singh,” the source added.

Khan has been among the top celebrity endorsers reportedly charging Rs 5 crore per year per brand. Recently, he had courted controversy when he supported Pakistani artists saying “they were not terrorists” in the wake of a debate on whether they should be allowed to work in Indian movies after the Uri attack.

Coca Cola India had roped in Khan as its brand ambassador for the second time to endorse its Thums Up brand in October 2012 replacing another Bollywood star Akshay Kumar. He had earlier endorsed the brand in early 2000s.

At that time, Coca-Cola India had also signed an agreement with Being Human -- The Salman Khan Foundation -- to jointly promote, conceive and execute charitable and social activities.

A written statement submitted by him earlier should be accepted, the Rajasthan government said to the top court today.  Mr Khan’s lawyers have argued that because the witness never appeared in court, they did not get the opportunity to cross-examine him.

But in its petition before the Supreme Court, the Rajasthan government has said Salman Khan’s lawyers had ample opportunity to cross examine Harish Dulani but they intentionally did not do so.

Mr Khan is also accused of killing a protected species of blackbuck antelope in October 2, 1998. The trial in that case is being heard separately.
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