Sanjay Dutt on the sets of Policegiri in March. (Fotocorp)
New Delhi, April 17: The Supreme Court today allowed Sanjay Dutt to remain free for four more weeks and complete pending films before he starts his prison term that was originally scheduled to kick in from tomorrow.
The court was told that over Rs 270 crore of Bollywood producers’s money could go down the drain if the actor was forced to surrender on April 18 to undergo punishment in an arms case related to the 1993 Bombay blasts.
A special bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and B.S. Chauhan brushed aside the objections of the CBI which said the actor should not be treated differently, particularly when three aged convicts were denied similar relief yesterday.
The apex court virtually told the CBI that it had no business to oppose the relief to the actor as the agency had consciously chosen not to file any appeal against his acquittal for Tada-related offences.
On March 21, Justices Chauhan and Sathasivam had upheld Sanjay’s conviction and five-year sentence for possession of arms during the blasts. He was ordered to serve out the remaining three-and-a-half years of his five-year term.
Additional solicitor-general Harin Raval, appearing for the CBI, opposed Sanjay’s plea, saying the March 21 judgment had stipulated that all convicts out on bail must surrender within four weeks.
He submitted that Sanjay’s application for an extension of the surrender deadline by another six months was a review petition being filed in the name of an application and hence should be rejected.
Raval said that on Tuesday another bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir had dismissed similar pleas made by three other convicts on health grounds and contended that the actor’s case was one of commercial interest.
“If the application is entertained, it will open the floodgates,” Raval said.
Raval said allowing Dutt’s plea would be akin to modifying the March 21 judgment. But the bench said: “It is not a modification and we are only extending the time.”
However, the bench said it was only granting a four-week extension. “It is the Lakshman rekha. You need not have any apprehensions…. When other similar petitions come, we will deal with it on a case-to-case basis.
“Anyway you have not challenged the acquittal of the applicant. You did not file any appeal against his acquittal though you filed against several others whom we have convicted. Now why are you opposing it?” the bench asked Raval.
However, the bench told senior counsel Harish Salve, who appeared for the actor: “You cannot say your client was unaware of the designated court’s order while accepting the films and the Rs 270 crore-odd money invested on him.”
“It happens in life,” Salve said, adding that an extension would help Sanjay wind up his commitments.
Sanjay had sought an extension of six months — petitioners usually pitch such pleas high. The court granted four weeks. “It is made clear that no further extension will be granted…. Salve… assured that no further petition will be moved in future,” the bench said in its order.
Chief Justice Kabir, Justices Anil Dave and Vikramjit Sen had yesterday dismissed the petitions of Sharif Abdul Gafoor Parker, 76, Issaq Mohd Hajwane, 88, and Zaibunnisa Anwar Kazi, 70, who had sought the relief on age-related and medical grounds.
“Once a person has been convicted, he has to go (to jail). The office of the President will be flooded with applications for mercy if such petitions are entertained by us,” the bench had said.
Today, PTI quoted Farhana Shah, counsel for the three convicts, as saying: “It is nice that Dutt has got the relief. Definitely it is sad… that their (the three convicts’) plea on medical grounds was not considered.”
“I am very upset. Poor people who really deserve some relief on medical grounds, their plea was not considered. Their condition is so bad that they can’t even come on their own and they are aged,” she added.
on the floor
The following are some of Sanjay Dutt’s pending film projects
A remake of Tamil
blockbuster Sammy. Sanjay plays a cop
in the lead role
Budget: Rs 40 crore
Release date: June 14
complete. A day or two
work may be left
Directed by Rajkumar
Hirani and starring
Sanjay and Aamir
Budget: Rs 100 crore
Release: December 25
Status: Five to six
days of work left for
Sanjay in the film
Dutt’s third collaboration with Karan Johar’s
Budget: Rs 50 crore
Release: September 6
Status: Sanjay’s work complete
Sanjay playing the
role of Sher Khan
Pran in the original Amitabh Bachchan
Budget: Rs 45 crore
The film stars
Sanjay along with
Budget: Rs 35 crore
Status: 60% of
the shoot completed.
About two weeks
of Sanjay’s work left
Budget: Not known
Release: June 28
Status: Sanjay’s role has been scrapped
Budget: Rs 100 crore
Release: Not fixed
Status: Won’t start
till Sanjay returns
from jail. “The reel Munnabhai will wait
for the real Munnabhai,” producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra said in a
Hasmukh Pighal Gaya
Sanjay’s home-production starring newbies. Friends Ajay Devgn
and Salman Khan
Budget: Rs 10 crore
Release: September 13
Status: Four to five days to shoot Sanjay’s cameo role pending
Compiled by Samyabrata Ray Goswami