The Sanjay Dutt saga

Print edition : April 19, 2013

Sanjay Dutt at a news conference outside his residence in Mumbai on March 28. Photo: REUTERS

THE Supreme Court on March 21 sentenced Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt under the Arms Act in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case and directed him to surrender in four weeks to serve his remaining term of about three and a half years. Sanjay Dutt has already spent 18 months in jail.

Sanjay Dutt, son of actor and former Member of Parliament Sunil Dutt and actor Nargis Dutt, was found in possession of an AK-56 rifle and a pistol, which were established to be part of the consignment of arms and ammunition that was smuggled in to conduct the bombing attack.

Dutt reportedly bought the weapons for self-defence because his father had been roughed up and threatened during the post-Babri Masjid communal violence in 1992-93. Reports suggest that Sameer Hingora and Hanif Lakdawala from Magnum Productions, along with gangsters Baba Chauhan and Abu Salem, visited Dutt’s house with nine AK-56 rifles and several grenades. Dutt chose a rifle and a pistol.

Hingora and Lakdawala spilled the beans on Dutt when they were caught. The actor and some of his accomplices attempted to destroy the weapons when the investigations closed in on them. Dutt was arrested in April 1993. His release in 1994 was shrouded in mystery. It is believed that the late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray was instrumental in his release.

Eventually, Dutt confessed to owning the arms as well as meeting wanted the gangster Dawood Ibrahim in Dubai in 1991 when he was shooting for a film.

When he received the news of the court sentence, Dutt issued an official statement, which said:

“I have already suffered for 20 years and been in jail for 18 months. If they want me to suffer more, I have to be strong. I am heart-broken because today along with me, my three children and my wife and my family will undergo the punishment.

“I have always respected the judicial system and will continue to do so, even with tears in my eyes.”

The entire film fraternity, some key politicians, and Press Council Chairman Justice Markandey Katju have sought a pardon for Dutt. It is believed that Dutt was a troubled young man who was drawn to vices when he purchased the weapons. He probably had no idea why the weapons were being brought into the country, said Shatrughan Sinha, a former MP and a film actor.

Dutt took to drugs and alcohol following the untimely death of his mother, but is now completely rehabilitated. For all his waywardness, Dutt is one of the most popular Bollywood actors, even among his peers.

According to a lawyer, Dutt’s chances for pardon are slim. “There are not many options for the actor. He did commit a crime but there may be some truth in the fact that he would not have understood the larger conspiracy.”

Katju has asked Maharashtra Governor K. Sankaranarayanan to pardon Dutt. The actor himself can file a review petition in the Supreme Court or move the Governor for pardon under Article 161 or request the State government to suspend or remit part of or the whole sentence under Sections 432 and 433 of the Criminal Procedure Code. However, any of this is possible only after he surrenders.

Dutt’s sister, Priya Dutt, the MP from North Mumbai, has supported a lot of charitable causes to help the underprivileged. Dutt himself is also involved in philanthropy and social work.

Anupama Katakam

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