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Court clock ticks, star still
- On eve of blasts verdict, Sanjay retreats from public glare

Mumbai, Aug. 9: Sanjay Dutt was cooped up at home for all of Wednesday, a day before the 1993 Bombay serial blasts verdict is expected to be delivered.

Sanjay is among the over 120 people accused in the serial explosions, the biggest terror strike in India that changed forever what was known then as Bombay.

Tomorrow morning, Judge Pramod Kode is scheduled to start pronouncing the judgment, unless a legal issue raised by Abu Salem comes in the way. (See Nation)

If found guilty under the sections he has been charged, Sanjay faces prison terms ranging from five to 10 years — or even death. But Sanjay’s legal team is hoping that the judge will not overlook the fact that he attended hearings whenever directed to and always took court permission before leaving Mumbai for film shoots.

“Sanjay has been avoiding going out much of late, though he has a load of assignments. He does not want any negative publicity at a time when a lot of his films are due for release. He wants to stay away from public events, too,” a family friend said.

Today, Sanjay did not show up at work for the film Shooting at Lokhandwala, one of the many professional and personal commitments he has put off in recent weeks. He has preferred not to leave his Pali Hill apartment in Bandra, even skipping events for Anthony Kaun Hai, the film in which he stars with Arshad Warsi.

“Sanju is so anxious about the verdict. He even got Priya and Namrata (his sisters) to cancel his lavish birthday celebrations on July 29,” said a minister close to the Dutt family.

Friend and business partner Sanjay Gupta does not quite agree. “Sanju does not like to party much since his father’s death. So he called a few close friends over on his birthday. He has done no wrong. He knows truth will prevail.”

Birthdays might not be important, but the star has never missed his school reunion — except this year’s. A batch-mate of the actor at Lawrence School in Sanawar said Sanjay did not attend, citing “personal reasons”.

Sanjay was shooting for Jai Vikranta in Jaipur when the March 12 serial explosions rocked Mumbai. On April 2, he left for Mauritius for the making of Aatish. His name cropped up over a month later when the then Mumbai police commissioner, Amarjit Singh Samra, announced at a press briefing on April 12 that some film personalities were involved in the blasts conspiracy.

Samra later said Sanjay had called him up from Mauritius the day after the disclosure to the media, insisting he was not linked to the blasts in any way.

According to the police chargesheet, Sanjay’s name first figured when cops arrested Magnum Video owners Hanif Kadawala and Samir Hingora for links with Anees Ibrahim. Another accused, Baba Musa Chauhan, confirmed what they said.

The trio told the police how Sanjay asked Anees Ibrahim for weapons following telephonic threats during the January 1993 riots and the manner in which Abu Salem had delivered AK-56 rifles to the actor’s Bandra house on instructions from Ibrahim.

Investigations revealed that after the arrest of Kadawala and Hingora on April 13, 1993, a jittery Sanjay asked close friends Yusuf Nullwala, Kersy Adajania, Russi Mulla and Ajay Marwah to destroy the AK-56 rifle and a 9-mm pistol.

The rifle had already been melted, but the police did retrieve parts of it — a spring and an 18-inch rod — along with the pistol from Marwah’s house.

As the 13-year trial enters a decisive phase, Sanjay’s fate rests on the police’s claims of the 18-inch rod and the spring of the melted AK-56 rifle.

On the eve of the verdict, a stoic Farhana Shah, Sanjay’s lawyer said: “It is all in the hands of Allah. I told him to have faith in Allah.”

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