The self-inculpatory confession of Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt that he possessed fire arms led to his conviction and award of five years jail term by the Supreme Court which termed his statement under TADA as a "substantive" piece of evidence.
The son of famous Bollywood couple late Sunil Dutt and Nargis who has already been in jail for 18 months, will now have to surrender within four weeks to undergo the remaining three-and-half years prison term.
"The appellant not only implicates himself in the above said statement but also amongst others the appellant Yusuf Nulwalla. The abovesaid confession has been duly recorded by PW-193 (a police officer) who has proved the compliance with the provisions of law while recording the confession.
"The abovesaid confession is a substantive piece of evidence and it has been held in a series of judgements that the confession can be the sole basis of conviction, if recorded in accordance with the provisions of TADA," the court said.
A bench of justices P Sathashivam and B S Chauhan refused to accept the plea that Dutt retracted from from confessional statement.
"The retraction statement was not made at the first available opportunity. After the recording of his confession, within 10 days, the accused was released on bail by the High Court, and the accused remained free for a considerable period of time.
"In fact, the judgement delivered by the Constitution Bench on 09.09.1994 also noted down that the said confession of the accused remained un-retracted. The retractions were made many months after the recording of the confession," it said.
Dutt, who was arrested in 1993 on his return from Mauritius from a film shoot for possessing a 9mm pistol and a AK 56 rifle, sought his release on probation on various grounds including that he has recently got re-married and has been blessed with two babies.
Moreover, the cine star also said that he has been involved in various charitable activities and is also on the board of directors of Save the Children Foundation.
Rejecting his plea, the court said, "The circumstances and the nature of the offence as analysed and discussed above are so serious and we are of the view that they do not warrant Dutt the benefit of the provisions of the Probation of Offenders Act, however, taking note of various aspects, we reduce the sentence to minimum period, viz., 6 years to 5 years. The appeal is disposed of on the above terms."
Dealing with the plea that subsequent retraction from the confession made it untrustworthy, the bench said, "It is settled law that a voluntary and free confession, even if later retracted, can be relied upon."
The bench, however, concurred with the special TADA court's view that the actor did not acquire the weapons for indulging in terrorist activities.
"In the case of Sanjay Dutt, the designated court took a view on the basis of his own confession that the weapons were not acquired for any terrorist activity but they were acquired for self-defence, therefore, acquittal was recorded in respect of charge under Section 5 of TADA. We fully agree with the same," it said.