NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt's conviction in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case and sentenced him to five years imprisonment. Dutt, who has already served 18 months of his term in prison, has four weeks to surrender.
The Supreme Court today also dismissed 1993 Mumbai blasts mastermind Yakub Memon's appeal against his death sentence even as it reduced the punishment of 10 other accused to life imprisonment from death sentence considering the fact that they have spent 20 years in jail. It also upheld life sentences awarded to 17 others.
The apex court said there is no case for probation to Dutt because of the gravity of the crime. Dutt can file a review petition.
Dutt, who was convicted under the Arms Act for illegally possessing weapons, had been awarded six years imprisonment by the TADA (Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act) court.
However, the apex court reduced the sentence from six years to five years. This effectively means that Dutt will be in jail for three years and six months as he has already undergone 18 months imprisonment.
"He will have to serve another three-and-a-half year sentence. We had prepared him for the same," Dutt's lawyer Satish Maneshinde told reporters.
"We will wait for a copy of the Supreme Court judgement and then decide the further course of action," he said. "He is a strong man and will fight back."
In 2007, Dutt was cleared of conspiracy charges in the Mumbai serial blasts but was found guilty of illegal possession of an automatic rifle and a pistol.
The actor was the most high-profile among 100 people found guilty in the bombings trial. The 1993 Mumbai attacks were ordered by India's most wanted man, Dawood Ibrahim, police say.
The court also came down heavily on Mumbai police and customs officers at all levels. But for their wrong actions the 1993 bombings could have been avoided.
A TADA court had in 1993 awarded death sentence to 12 people, including Memon. One of them has passed away. The court had also sentenced 20 to life imprisonment and 46 others, including Dutt, were given varying terms of imprisonment.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had faced flak for not challenging the TADA court verdict acquitting Sanjay Dutt of charges under the TADA but convicting him under the Arms Act and sentencing him to six years imprisonment.
However, in the course of the hearing of his appeal, the CBI had opposed the actor's plea challenging his conviction and sentencing.
For a man who reportedly took to drugs in high school, hobnobbed with India's most-wanted criminals and whose private life constantly made headlines, Dutt retains the sympathy of the industry and millions of fans who see him as a victim of his star lineage and own fame.
Dutt is the son of actor and former Congress minister late Sunil Dutt. His sister Priya is a Congress MP in the Lok Sabha. Their mother, late Nargis, had also been a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha.
Dutt married longtime girlfriend Manyata in February 2008 and became a father to twins two years later. He has a daughter Trishala from his first marriage.
Through all his troubled years, Dutt managed to stay relevant in Bollywood, with his biggest hits being the two-series Munnabhai films in which he played a funny, do-gooder gangster.
Dutt wasn't present in the court and was represented by his sister Priya.
A series of 13 car bomb blasts had ripped through Mumbai on March 12, 1993, resulting in the death of 257 people and injuries to 713. The locations that were targeted included fisherman's colony in Mahim Causeway, Zaveri Bazaar, Plaza Cinema, Century Bazaar, Katha Bazaar, Hotel Sea Rock, Sahar Airport, Air India building, Hotel Juhu Centaur, the Bombay Stock Exchange Building and the Passport Office.
Not linked to 1993 blasts: Dutt
In August 2012, Dutt told the Supreme Court that his offence of possessing a rifle and ammunition was not linked to the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts.
Appearing for the actor, senior counsel Harish Salve told the apex court bench of Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice B.S. Chauhan that he came to possess the weapon in September 1992 when his father Sunil Dutt and sisters were facing threats as the senior Dutt's help to Muslim victims annoyed some.
Salve said that the only caveat in putting Sanjay Dutt to trial under an anti-terror law was if there was any "inextricable linkage" between his possessing arms with the serial bomb blasts.
He said that this was the least common denominator that could be used for seeing any such linkage. He said that there was no linkage between Dutt possessing a rifle and the 1993 bomb blasts.
The court was told that Dutt had never met blasts accused Tiger Memon and all that he knew about him was hearsay from Samir Hingora in whose under-production film "Sanam" he was playing a role.
The senior counsel told this to the apex court hearing Dutt's appeal challenging his conviction under the Arms act and sentence of six years awarded to him. The actor's appeal challenging his conviction was being heard by the apex court.
As Salve commenced the arguments, the court pointed out that there were objections that the "CBI filed appeal against all making an exception for Sanjay Dutt".
The court was apparently referring to senior counsel Jaspal Singh casting shadows on the impartiality of the CBI by not appealing against the TADA court verdict in Dutt's case.
Jaspal Singh, who appeared for accused Yakub Memon, said that the CBI did not oppose the bail of Dutt who had confessed his guilt and weapons were recovered from him. (With agency inputs)