| Film actor Sanjay Dutt arrives at the Tada court in Mumbai on Tuesday.(PTI)
Mumbai, Nov 28 (PTI) : Holding that Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt was not a terrorist, a court today acquitted him of the serious charge of conspiracy in the 1993 serial blasts here, but convicted him of the lesser crime of possessing arms that carries a maximum prison term of three years.
“During my reasoning I have not found him (Sanjay) to be a terrorist,” Judge P D Kode of the Tada court said as the star of the Munnabhai series pensively awaited the verdict.
Accepting 47-year-old Sanjay's confession, Kode observed: “Considering matters in his confession and also taking into account certain admissions from other evidence, I accept the stand of Sanjay of acquiring and possessing weapons for self- defence.”
Sanjay, who spent about 16 months in prison after his arrest in April 1993, was found guilty under Sections 3 and 7 read with Section 25 of the Indian Arms Act. Under Section 3, he was found guilty of possessing a 9mm pistol and under Section 7 for possessing an AK-56 rifle, a prohibited weapon.
Under these charges, he faces a maximum of three years in prison. The court, on Sanjay's plea, extended his bail and asked him to surrender on December 19.
The court also let off Sanjay's friends Yusuf Nallawalla and Kersi Adajenia on terrorism charges but found them guilty under the Arms Act and for destroying evidence.
The CBI said both had helped Sanjay in destroying an AK-56 rifle by melting it in a foundry and disposing of the remains in the sea.
The court held Zebunisa Qazi guilty of abetting terrorist acts by keeping in her possession weapons delivered to her by gangster Abu Salem and his men. The CBI said Salem and his associate Manzoor Ahmed Syed had carried weapons from Sanjay's residence to Zebunisa's house.
The court let off Nallwalla and Adajenia on the Tada charges under Section 3(3) (aiding and abetting terrorist acts), Section 5 (possession of arms) and Section 6 (contravening other laws). Zebunisa was acquitted of charges under Section 5 of Tada for possessing arms. She was given two weeks to surrender and asked to furnish a personal bond of Rs. 3 lakhs.
Sanjay, who was “accused number 117” in the serial blasts case, had earlier confessed to the police about possessing an AK-56 rifle and a pistol that were delivered to him by associates of Anees Ibrahim, brother of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.
In the confession -- recorded on April 28, 1993, nine days after his arrest -- Sanjay said his concern for his family in the face of threats during the communal riots of 1992-93 had prompted him to acquire the weapons. Though he retracted the confession in November 1994, Judge Kode today said it had been considered in pronouncing the verdict.
Besides giving a description of his passion for hunting in the confession, Sanjay had detailed the circumstances in which he acquired AK-56 rifles.
Sanjay spoke of his concerns about the safety of his family during the 1992-93 communal riots to Hanif Kadawala and Samir Hingora, the proprietors of Magnum Video. “At that time we received several anonymous calls saying that male members of our family would be killed and women members would be raped. All of us were frightened and were under great mental tension. My father was also attacked during his visit to Behrampada and Jogeshwari areas by furious mobs, who branded him as pro-Muslim,” he said.
Kadawala and Hingora said they could give him an automatic rifle to combat the threat. Initially Sanjay did not show interest but when they repeatedly told him about their offer of giving firearms, he relented.
In mid-January 1993, Kadawala and Hingora came to Sanjay's house with “another person named Salem” and another man, whose identity the actor did not know.
Sanjay was given three AK-56 rifles and ammunition. “On seeing the rifles I got scared and told them that I wanted only one weapon. Then Hanif and Salem told me that I should keep them for the time being and if it was not required they would take away the rest of the two weapons,” he said. The actor refused an offer of hand grenades and later returned two AK-56s while retaining one rifle and some ammunition. Though he tried to return the last rifle, it was not taken back, he said.
Sanjay also revealed in his confession that he had purchased a pistol for Rs. 40,000 from Kayuum, who was a member of Dawood Ibrahim's gang, in September 1992. He said after the riots were over, he wanted to inform police about the AK-56 rifle and the pistol but did not do so as he feared his father Sunil Dutt would reprimand him.
After Kadawala and Hingora were arrested on April 2, 1993 while Sanjay was shooting a film in Mauritius, the actor contacted his friend Yusuf Nullwala “asked him that something was lying in a black colour bag which was kept in my hall at the second floor of my house. I asked him to destroy completely the things in my bag.
“As news appeared in the press about AK-56 rifles in my possession, my father asked me about it and I denied the same. My anxiety about the whole episode became unbearable and I decided to return to Bombay. My father informed police about my flight details and I was picked up as I landed and I confessed the whole thing to them,” he said.