TADA COURT PRONOUNCES 6 YEARS RI FOR SANJAY DUTT

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DON’T be sentimental. These were the words from Justice PD Kode for Sanjay Dutt as he sentenced the weeping Bollywood star to six years of rigorous imprisonment, ending a prolonged and agonising wait for the actor.

The TADA court which has been hearing the country’s longest trial for the past 14 years, dismissed Sanjay’s plea seeking time to surrender after he was given a six-year jail term in the 1993 serial blasts case. Justice Kode ordered that he be held in a separate cell in the Arthur Road Jail. The court also allowed the star to meet family members and close friends and to speak to his daughter Trishala, who lives in the US.

Sanjay, 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 Probation of Offenders Act (POA). After pronouncing the sentence, the court cancelled Sanjay’s bail and told the police to take him into custody. The actor, in a choked voice, tried convincing the court that he was expecting some benefit under the POA and his sentence would be waived, and hence, he wanted to make certain arrangements before he was sent to jail. “You (Judge Kode) are more than a family for all of us,” Sanjay said.

But Mr. Kode was unmoved. “It’s not a personal matter. I’m only doing my duty to uphold the law,” he told Sanjay. “I have seen you in the past 10 years and exempted you by giving concessions in all matters. You have utilised the time to the best and shot for movies, doing remarkably well in the film line. Don’t be sentimental, be calm and quiet,” Mr. Kode advised the visibly-shattered actor.

Earlier, finding him guilty of possessing arms and ammunition, the judge recalled Sanjay’s connection with the underworld. Sanjay had attended a dinner party hosted by actor-filmmaker Feroze Khan in December 1992 in Dubai where gangster Dawood Ibrahim and Iqbal Mirchi too had turned up. “By this, Sanjay had not only committed the offence but made co-accused Yusuf Nulwalla commit the offence. I can see a chain of crimes committed between Sanjay Dutt and others initiated by the actor,” Mr. Kode said, thereby sealing the Bollywood star’s fate.

Dutt’s co-accused Rusi Mullah was, however, granted relief under the Probation of Offenders Act because of his age and restricted role in the blasts. Mulla will be released after depositing Rs 1 lakh. Sanjay had faced arrest on April 19, 1993 in the case and had spent 16 months behind bars as an undertrial. The court noted that it was an “eminently dangerous act” as the weapon possessed by Sanjay was capable of mass destruction though the accused had not used the weapons. He pointed out that apart from possessing the weapons, Sanjay was a close acquaintance of Anees Ibrahim and attended a party hosted by Dawood Ibrahim in Dubai.
For Sanjay, many eminent personalities such as Mumbai former sheriff Nana Chudasama and thespian Dilip Kumar had filed affidavits requesting he be released under the POA. But according to Judge Kode, these are of no use if there is material that says the actor has indulged in a criminal act.

Dismissing the defence’s argument that the weapons were acquired by Sanjay for self-defence, the judge held that such an acquisition cannot be called ‘noble’, is contrary to the law and indicates “scant respect for the law”. “I must say that for every citizen, the laws of the nation shall be respected. If you don’t, I don’t expect you to be called a moral person,” he summed up.

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