By Hindustan Times
Actor Sanjay Dutt, who has to undergo three-and-a-half years in jail in the Mumbai serial blasts case, on Thursday said he believed in judiciary and would explore legal options after going through the Supreme Court verdict.
Dutt said on Thursday he is "shattered" by the Supreme Court verdict sentencing him to five years in prison in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case. He said he will complete all his pending films, and that he ought to be strong in these trying times for his family and children.
"I have already suffered for 20 years and been in jail for 18 months. If they want me to suffer more I have to be strong. I am heart broken because today along with me, my three children and my wife and my family will undergo the punishment," Sanjay said in a statement.
Sanjay, who has been asked to surrender within four weeks and has projects estimated at Rs. 250 crore riding on him, added: "I have always respected the judicial system and will continue to do so, even with tears in my eyes. I am going to complete all my films and won't let anyone down. I am overwhelmed by the support of my fans, the industry people, the media and all the well wishers."
"I still believe in judiciary. My family is with me and I am still strong," he said in his first reaction to the judgement upholding his conviction in the 1993 case.
53-year-old Dutt, who remained confined in his 10th floor flat at 'Imperial Heights' at Pali Hill in suburban Bandra, said in an SMS to the media he would explore legal options available after going through the verdict.
Earlier, his lawyer Satish Maneshinde had said he had accepted the punishment handed down by the apex court "as it is".
Maneshinde, who represented Dutt at the trial in the blasts case in the TADA court, said he had spoken to the actor who will have to undergo three-and-a-half more years in jail.
"Sanjay Dutt told me I have accepted the judgement as it is. I have accepted it," Maneshinde said quoting the actor. 'Dutt has accepted SC decision'
The lawyer said though they will pursue the legal course available, "I am not sure what relief he can claim".
"But Sanjay Dutt will abide by the apex court's order of undergoing the sentence of three-and-a-half years in letter and spirit. Three-and-a-half-years is not a long period," he said.
"We have prepared him (for sentence) from the very beginning. Sanjay Dutt is a strong man and will fight for himself," Maneshinde said.
Eminent criminal lawyer Majid Memon, who defended many of the accused in the case, said there was only a "narrow" window open for actor to seek relief after the Supreme Court judgement.
"He has only a narrow window of approaching a larger bench or file a review petition but in that case also, I am afraid that unless stay is granted on today's order, he will have to walk into the prison," Memon told reporters here.
Describing as "unfortunate" Dutt's conviction, Memon said since the actor had already undergone 18 months' imprisonment, he was expecting that the apex court, after examining evidence against him and taking into account facts and circumstances singularly applicable to him, could give him the "benefit of sentence undergone".
"But in its wisdom and fairness, the Supreme Court has felt that he needs to be sentenced to five years. Consequently, he will have to go back and suffer the remaining period of his sentence.
"The law says once the highest court has passed the order, the law will take its own course. Proceedings will start unless stayed by the highest court," he said.
As Dutt remained closeted with close family and friends at his home, several Bollywood personalties including director Rajkumar Hirani and actor Vidya Balan went to him to express their solidarity.
B-town personalities Apoorva Lakhia, Milan Luthria, Sujoy Ghosh, Bunty Walia, Rumi Jaffery and Congress MLA Baba Siddiqui, a close family friend, also visited him.
Security at 'Imperial Heights' has been tightened with a police van being stationed inside the premises.
Sanjay Dutt will have to undergo a jail term of more than three years after the Supreme Court on Thursday upheld his conviction in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case which it said was organised by underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and others with the involvement of Pakistan's ISI.
However, the apex court reduced to five years the six year jail term awarded to him by a designated TADA court in 2006, ruling out his release on probation because the "nature" of his offence was "serious".
53-year-old Dutt, son of famous bollywood couple late Sunil Dutt and Nargis, has already spent one and half years in jail and was out on bail. Sunil Dutt was a long standing Congressman and was a Union Minister.
Dutt was convicted by the TADA court for illegal possession a 9 mm Pistol and a AK-56 rifle which was part of the consignment of weapons and explosives brought to India for the coordinated serial blasts that killed 257 people and injured over 700.
Bringing to a closure the appeals by the convicts and the state in the case, a bench of justices P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan upheld the death sentence of Yakub Abdul Razak Memon, brother of one of the absconding main conspirators Tiger Memon and life sentences of 16 of the 18 convicts.
The death sentence of 10 others was commuted to life sentence by the court which directed that they will remain in prison till death.
The life sentence of one Ashrafur Rehman Azimulla was reduced to 10 years while Imtiyaz Yunusmiya Ghavte was set free by reducing the sentence to jail term already undergone.
"The circumstances and the nature of the offence is so serious that we are of the view that he (Sanjay Dutt) cannot take the benefit of provisions of the Probation of Offenders Act to release him on probation," the bench said.
"We reduce the punishment of six years to minimum of five years under the Arms Act," the bench said and directed him to surrender within four weeks.
The apex court concurred with the conclusion arrived at by the designated TADA court saying that it had adopted the "correct procedure" while awarding the sentence to Dutt.
"We are in agreement with conclusion arrived at by the designated TADA court that had rejected the arguments of the appellant Sanjay Dutt," the bench said.
"We are of the view that the trial court adopted the correct procedure and the decision arrived at by it was correct," it said and directed Dutt to surrender within four weeks from today.
According to the CBI, RDX had come from Pakistan in boats and had landed in Dighy and Shekhadi coasts in Raigad district in January and February 1993.
Besides, weapons had also landed and were collected by Tiger's men. One of the weapons was given to actor Sanjay Dutt by bollywood film makers Samir Hingora and Hanif Kadawala.
The apex court modified the nine year jail term awarded by TADA court to Hingora to the jail term already undergone.
Hingora had supplied AK-56 rifles, magazines, cartridges and hand grenades, which were part of the illegal consignment to be used in the blasts, at Dutt's Pali Hill residence and has spent six and half years in jail.
Kadawala was shot dead in February 2001 by two unindentified men during the trial of the case.
The apex court upheld the five-year jail term awarded to Zaibunnisa Anwar Kazi, who also was found guilty of storing AK-56 rifles and hand grenades.
The court also upheld the conviction and five-year sentence of Yusuf Mohsin Nulwalla, a close friend of Dutt, who was held guilty of destroying the weapons which were kept at Dutt's house.
The punishment of two-year jail term of Kersi Bapuji Adjania, who was also sentenced for destroying weapons in Dutt's possession, was also upheld.
According to CBI, Nulwalla had picked up the weapons from Dutt's house and took them to Adjania and then destroyed them.