|Not guilty of terror
Mumbai, Nov. 28: Not a terrorist but a truant young man — Sanjay Dutt escaped the verdict he and his family had dreaded.
“During my reasoning, I have not found him (Sanjay) to be a terrorist,” Judge P.D. Kode said, holding the actor guilty of illegal possession of arms acquired from conspirators of the serial blasts in 1993.
A tense Sanjay, who turned out today in a check shirt and jeans, a tilak on his forehead and gold chain dangling conspicuously, stood in the witness box as the Tada (anti-terrorism) court judge went on: “You had said unless established, I should not be called a terrorist. I have not found you to be a terrorist.”
Convicted under Section 3 and 7 read with Section 25 (1A), 1 (B) (a) of the Indian Arms Act, 1959, Sanjay faces punishment ranging from a minimum of five to a maximum of 10 years. As he has already served 16 months in jail, this period will be commuted from the sentence when it comes.
One of the first to call and congratulate Sanjay, 47, after the verdict was his 18-year-old daughter Trishala from New York. “Hi, honey. I told you to pray to God,” he told his daughter from his first marriage to actress Richa Sharma.
|Guilty of murder
The court absolved the actor, currently high in the popularity sweepstakes because of Lage Raho Munnabhai, of charges under Section 120-b (participating in a criminal conspiracy) and under Section 5 and 6 of the now-defunct Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, or Tada, for possessing an AK-56 rifle and a 9mm pistol.
He was also acquitted of the principal charge of aiding and abetting Dawood Ibrahim and his co-conspirators in committing a terrorist act under Section 3(3) of Tada. The judge said the prosecution had failed to establish the charge.
These sections are punishable with a minimum of five years and a maximum of life imprisonment and even death.
“Considering the matters in his confession, and taking into account certain admissions from other evidence, the stand that he acquired and possessed weapons for self-defence has been accepted,” the judge said.
In the confession of April 28, 1993, Sanjay had said concern for his family in the face of threats during the riots of 1992-93 had led him to acquire the weapons that were delivered by associates of Anees Ibrahim, Dawood’s brother.
Sanjay retracted the confession later, but the judge said he had borne it in mind in pronouncing the verdict.
Priya, Sanjay’s sister and Congress MP who was in court, said: “Here is the verdict that Sanjay Dutt is not a terrorist. This is what we were waiting for.”
After the verdict, The Telegraph tried to get a response from Sanjay who declined: “I don’t want to say anything.”
Speaking on his behalf, his lawyer Satish Maneshinde said: “Sanjay is relieved and happy that his family name has been cleared of terror charges and wished that his father was alive.”
Sanjay did not reveal any emotion when the judge gave his verdict but minutes later, showing signs of impatience, he spoke up.
“I am the only earning member of my family...” he said before Judge Kode interrupted him.
Concern over Trishala’s education was one of the three grounds Sanjay cited in his application later, asking the court to grant him four weeks to surrender. After conviction, the court cancels the bail bond of the accused and takes him into judicial custody. A law student in New York, Trishala lives with her grandparents. The judge allowed the actor three weeks, which means he has to surrender on December 19.
As he emerged from court, Sanjay was greeted with a huge roar by hundreds of fans.