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Sanjay Dutt jailed for 6 years

Mumbai, July 31 (PTI): Actor Sanjay Dutt was today sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for six years for illegal possession of weapons that were given to him by associates of gangster Dawood Ibrahim ahead of the 1993 serial blasts here.

With this the curtains came down today on the marathon and some times dramatic trial of the serial blasts case comprising 100 convicts.

Dutt, who was seated in the back of the court when the sentence was announced, was visibly shocked as the judge gave the reasoning for his decision not to grant him relief under the POA act.

After pronouncing the sentence, the court cancelled the bail granted to Dutt and told police to take him into custody.

Dutt, who spent 16 months in prison after his arrest in April 1993 and was free on bail, was also fined Rs 25,000 by the special tada court of judge P. D. Kode.

The court rejected Dutt's application seeking exemption from a prison term under the probation of offenders (POA) act.

Dutt was convicted in November last year under the Arms Act for the illegal possession of a 9mm pistol and an AK-56 rifle but was acquitted of more serious terrorism charges under the stringent tada law.

During arguments over Dutt's application under the probation of offenders act, his lawyers sought to prove his good character and, with affidavits filed by four prominent personalities. They also tried to prove that he had obtained the weapons for the safety of his family, which he felt was under threat due to the communal riots.

Among those who filed affidavits endorsing Dutt's caracter were thespian Dilip Kumar, Vipula Kadri, former Mumbai Sheriff Nana Chudasama and anti-drug abuse acivist Yusuf Merchant. All four claimed to have known Dutt for years and vouched for his committment to social causes

The trial, which began in 1994 in a high-security makeshift courtroom in Arthur Road Jail, saw 12 people being awarded death sentences -- the highest in any single criminal case.

Yaqub Memon, a brother of the blasts mastermind Tiger Memon, was among the dozen given capital punishment.

Twenty others were sentenced to life imprisonment by judge P D Kode, who took over the case from judge J N Patel in 1996.

A total of 123 people were named as accused in the case and 100 of them were convicted. Of the convicts, 47 were charged with -- among other things -- being party to the conspiracy to carry out the deadly blasts on March 12, 1993 that killed 257 people and injured 713.

The CBI, which took over the probe into the attacks 10 months after the blasts rocked the megapolis, had sought the death penalty for 44 conspirators, including three members of the Memon family -- Tiger Memon's brothers Yaqub, Essa and Yusuf. Judge Kode sentenced Essa and Yusuf to life imprisonment in view of their ill-health.

The sentencing of the 100 convicts began on may 18 this year after the court went through a whopping 13,000 pages of oral evidence, 7,000 pages of documentary evidence and 6,700 pages of statements made by the accused. The court also examined 684 witnesses.

A total of 38,070 questions were put to the accused during the recording of their statements. The prosecution also provided evidence to show that rdx was used for the first time in India in the 1993 blasts.

After prolonged arguments, charges were framed against 123 people on April 1995 and examination of witnesses began in June 1995.

These included eye-witnesses to the planting of car and suit-case bombs and recovery of arms and ammunition, special executive magistrates who conducted identification parades, police officers who recorded confessional statements of the accused and investigating officers.

Twenty-seven criminal cases were registered in connection with the blasts in several police stations of Mumbai city and Thane and Raigad districts.

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