TADA court Judge PD Kode's ruling allowing actor Sanjay Dutt to surrender on December 19 drew strong protests from Special Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam who told media men that there was no legal provision in any of the acts for this.
"He cannot be given concession just because he is a matinee idol. Such a thing will give a bad impression of judiciary," said Nikam.
After convicting Dutt, special judge PD Kode has granted time till December 19 to surrender instead of immediately taking him in custody.
Nikam's strong rejoinder, focused the spotlight away from the day's legal drama, on the question—Is there any legal provision under which a convict can be permitted to leave the court premises after conviction when even formal bail is not granted? Also, those from the legal fraternity who in one way or the other are connected with the 1993 blasts case were also heard animatedly discussing the exact grounds on which Dutt was acquitted for possessing weapons in a TADA notified area but found guilty of holding weapons illegally under the Arms Act.
The 47-year-old actor was acquitted of the serious charge of conspiracy under the TADA in the 1993 serial blasts but convicted under the Arms Act for possessing an AK 56 rifle and a pistol. While a detailed order copy will take some more days to come, all that Judge Kode said on Tuesday was, "After due reasoning during the trial, I did not find him to be a terrorist."
When Nikam rose on his feet and objected to the court allowing Dutt to surrender in December, Dutt tried to plead with Nikam saying that he had a daughter and needed to make arrangements for her. Nikam, in turn, asked Dutt to address the court and not him.
According to senior counsel Adhik Shirodkar, although there is no provision under TADA the court can grant time to surrender if the court finds that he had not abused his rights when he was released on bail. During the entire time of trial, Dutt was behind bars for 18 months.
"The court has the discretionary powers and under that it has given time to Dutt to surrender purely on compassionate grounds. Apart from that the court has also observed that he has not misused his bail," said noted criminal lawyer Majeed Memon.
"I fail to understand how the court acquitted him of charges under the TADA when it is established that he was in possession of arms in a notified area," remarked Nikam adding that things would be clearer after the entire judgment is delivered. "Let me go through the body of the judgment and see the reasoning of the designated judge for acquitting him under TADA," Nikam told HT.
On this point, Memon, too, stressed that it would be difficult to comment without going through the judgment.
A new question has now arisen following Dutt's acquittal on all TADA charges: Does he have to approach the High Court or the Supreme Court against his conviction? A section of lawyers who believe that since the entire trial was conducted under TADA, the provisions of TADA are applicable which excludes high court's jurisdiction in entertaining appeal against TADA court's order.
Another section believes that if an accused is convicted by a TADA court under any other act and acquitted from charges under TADA then he/she can approach the HC.
Besides Dutt, eight others convicts have been granted time to surrender—Rubina Memon, Mubina Bhiwandiwala, Zaibunnisa Kazi, Imtiaz Gawate, Somnath Kakaram Thapa, Yusuf Nulwala, Kersi Adejania and RK Singh.