After spending five years behind bars in Portugal and India, Monica Bedi, the companion of gangster Abu Salem walked free on Wednesday.
The former Bollywood starlet was released from the Chanchalguda jail in Hyderabad, a day after a court granted her bail in a fake passport case.
Accompanied by her father Prem Kumar Bedi and lawyers, Monica emerged from the jail premises. Several friends, fans and well-wishers had gathered outside the jail to welcome her.
A near stampede situation prevailed as dozens of photographers and television camera crew vied to take her pictures.
"I am very happy. I have got justice. I am very thankful to God. I want to spend some time with my family," a beaming Monica told newsmen before she left for the airport.
"I have learnt a lesson. Earlier, I used to trust everybody and think everybody is nice but now I will be more careful," said Monica, who spent 18 months in jail in the fake passport case.
Monica claimed she was getting offers from Hindi and Telugu film industries and said she planned to settle down in Hyderabad to act in Telugu films.
"I am excited to be back to acting after a long time. I was missing acting in films," said Monica, who was arrested along with Salem in Lisbon in September 2002 and was extradited in November 2005.
"I am sure this time I will make it. I will be careful in choosing films, producers and directors," she said in an obvious reference to the links between some film industry people and the underworld. She said she planned to do only lead roles in the films.
Replying to questions, Monica refused to say what went wrong with her. "It is over. I am looking forward to the future," was all she said.
Her lawyers said she was leaving for Delhi immediately and from there she would go to her native village in Punjab.
The special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court on Tuesday granted the bail after the Supreme Court Monday relaxed her bail condition but she could not be released Tuesday because it was already sunset before the court orders reached the jail.
The court had last week declined to grant her bail as she failed to deposit her passport but the Supreme Court Monday ruled that she would not be required to deposit the document.
Monica had told the court that she had lost her passport in Lisbon.
The CBI court last year had sentenced Bedi to five years imprisonment, which was later reduced to three years by the Andhra Pradesh High Court.
In May this year, the Supreme Court had granted her bail in the fake passport case but she could not be released due to a similar case pending against her in Bhopal. She was brought back here last week after the Bhopal court acquitted her in the second case.
Monica was arrested in Lisbon in 2002 when she was found travelling on a fake passport along with Salem.
After a long judicial process, Salem and Monica were extradited in 2005. While Salem was lodged in a Mumbai jail in connection with the 1993 serial bomb blasts case, Monica was brought to Hyderabad for trial in the fake passport case.
Monica was charged with acquiring a passport under a fictitious name in 2001 by furnishing a false residential address at Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh.