Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt is headed back to jail with the Supreme Court on Thursday upholding his conviction for illegal possession of a weapon in connection with the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case.
The court, however, reduced his sentence from six to five years — the minimum under the Arms Act.
“We could not have given a sentence less than what is prescribed in law,” it said.
The 53-year-old actor has four weeks to surrender before a Mumbai court. He is looking at three-and-a-half years behind bars since he has already served 18 months. He has been out on bail since November 2007.
Dutt’s is the most high-profile conviction in the case. The court also upheld the death sentence of Yakub Memon, younger brother of absconding mastermind Tiger Memon, while commuting the death penalty of 10 others to life, clarifying they would remain in jail till their death.
A bench of justice P Sathasivam and justice BS Chauhan also acquitted two persons while permitting the release of a prisoner who is an AIDS patient.
Dutt, found guilty of possessing an AK-56 assault rifle the conspirators had brought into the country, said on Thursday, “I still believe in the judiciary. My family is with me and I am still strong.”
His sister, Lok Sabha MP Priya Dutt, was the only family member in court. “At this moment I don’t know what to say,” she said, almost breaking down.
Dutt pleaded with the court to let him off on probation on grounds of his past good conduct, but his petition was rejected. “The circumstances and nature of the offence are so serious... they don’t warrant the benefit of the provisions of the Probation of Offenders Act,” the bench said.
The only legal recourse available to Dutt is a review petition.
"The law grants him the opportunity to approach SC for a review," said former Delhi high court judge RS Sodhi said.
He also said the Maharashtra government, if it wanted, could consider granting Dutt clemency under article 161 on the executive side.
"After all, he is not a terrorist but just a convict under the Arms Act."
Dutt's confession under the stringent Terrorist Activities and Disruptive Act after his arrest on April 19, 1993 and his telephonic conversation with mastermind Dawood Ibrahim's brother Anees Ibrahim proved fatal.
The SC declared his confession - that he had received a cache of arms two months before the attack from which he had retained the AK-56 - as voluntary and truthful.
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