'Lagaan' case: HC quashes FIR against Aamir Khan

AHMEDABAD: On a day Salman Khan got a reprieve from the Bombay high court, another Bollywood star, Aamir Khan, and his team from the 2001 film 'Lagaan' got relief from a court here.

The Gujarat high court on Friday dropped criminal proceedings against seven people, including Aamir, director Ashutosh Gowariker and three technical experts. Earlier, charges against the seven had been framed in a lower court in Bhuj in connection with the alleged poaching of a chinkara in the Banni grassland during the shooting of the film in Kutch district in 2000.

"This case falls in the category of rarest of rare cases 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 (forest official) of unknown facts," acting chief justice V M Sahai said while quashing the complaint filed under the Wildlife Protection Act. "There is no evidence; the complaint is false, frivolous, imaginary and absurd."

An assistant conservator of forest, Kutch range, J E Vyas, had filed the complaint in 2005 and the government had defended it, saying the officer had seen the killing of the chinkara in the film that year.

Aamir's counsel said the chinkara scene was created in the studio through visual effects by obtaining shots from different sources.

After hearing the arguments, the court criticized the government for filing a complaint on basis of a scene in the film. It said if the criminal justice system was set in motion on the basis of "such imaginary scenes", it would be a hazardous trend since it could be used to challenge even the investigating agencies and would hinder investigation of genuine cases, too. The court pulled up the authorities for filing the complaint without evidence.

The forest department had earlier carried some preliminary investigations and the matter was closed in 2006. But the case was reopened after an environmental group, Gir Youth Nature Club, registered a complaint in this regard. The club's complaint was filed after Aamir's remarks on the Narmada dam sparked off a controversy in 2006. A major protest had followed against the actor and his film 'Fanaa' was even boycotted in Gujarat.