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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Sanjay Datt -Sentenced to 6 years, sobbing Sanjay in jail

Sentenced to 6 years, sobbing Sanjay in jail


The iron gates clanged shut behind the prisoner, but they could not drown out the chant from the jail barracks: “Munnabhai aala re (here comes Munnabhai).”

A lone voice from behind strove desperately to put courage into “Bhaiyya” even as the speaker’s own seemed to be deserting her.

Sister and MP Priya Dutt —expecting her second child — and other family members were seeing off a sobbing Sanjay Dutt, just handed six years’ rigorous imprisonment in the Bombay blasts case for the “eminently dangerous” act of keeping an AK-56 and a 9mm pistol.

The actor’s escorts — eight policemen and the court registrar — were in no mood for sentimental scenes. It was 6.20 in the evening and they were in a hurry. Sanjay and his friend Yusuf Nullwala had to be inside their cells before the high-security Arthur Road Jail downed its hatch at 6.30.

A lesser being than the movie star would have had to miss his dinner, a jail employee said.

“But arrangements have been made for our dear Munnabhai,” he winked. It is well-known that even in high-security jails, a “special bandobast” can always be managed.

Sanjay will have an entire cell to himself at Barrack No. 1, where his next-door neighbour will be Praveen Mahajan, accused of shooting dead his brother and former Union minister Pramod last year.

“The judge said Sanjay should not be kept with hardened criminals but in a proper place with all facilities. His family would be allowed to come and meet him,” the actor’s lawyer, Satish Maneshinde, told reporters.

The 6.30pm shutters-down, though, is non-negotiable even for Munnabhai, whose leniency plea was shot down by the court that pointed to his past hobnobbing with D-company gangsters.

On a day Sanjay swung from hope to utter despair within seconds — just as millions of his fans did across the country — judge Pramod Kode let off co-accused Russi Mulla on probation but showed no mercy to an actor who got friends to do his dirty work.

By encouraging others to perform criminal acts, Sanjay had shown a “high element of criminality”, Kode said, handing out a Rs 25,000 fine as well and bringing the curtains down on the 14-year-long trial.

Sanjay will serve only four-and-a-half years in jail because he has already spent 18 months behind bars.

Bollywood stood behind its own today, with Amitabh Bachchan reacting from a remote location in Andhra Pradesh: “Very sad and depressing news.”

Sanjay’s lawyers will move the Supreme Court for relief as soon as they receive the “operative order” of the sentence, expected tomorrow. After an appeal is filed, it takes at least two days for the matter to come up for hearing.

“We are sad and think the judgment is harsh,” Maneshinde said. “(But) we had prepared him (for jail).”

Sanjay, though, was in tears after the sentencing and, when his plea for a delayed surrender fell through, he appeared shattered.

A sympathetic Kode granted the actor a private meeting with his family right away.

“The registrar’s room was vacated and Sanjay and his sisters Namrata and Priya stayed inside with their husbands, Kumar Gaurav and Owen Roncon,” a court source said. “From outside the closed doors, we could hear his wails.”

Sanjay’s lawyers, too, left the family alone in their “difficult private moments”.

“They were in the registrar’s room for about 20 minutes. When they came out, the registrar asked them to hurry up,” Maneshinde said.

“Sanjay and his escorts walked towards the jail. Priya, Namrata and their husbands followed them with us.”

The 200-odd policemen guarding the court and jail held the media at bay.

Sanjay suddenly turned to look back towards his sisters. They rushed to him and held him in a hug.

As the actor put a foot gingerly inside the jail gates, Priya cried out from behind him: “Bhaiyya, be strong.”

The iron gates slammed shut in response.

He broke down as soon as the judge had sentenced him to six years in jail. At that moment, Sanjay Dutt looked nothing like the movie star that he is. “I made a mistake 14 years back,” he said. “Please grant me time to surrender.”
Fourteen years ago, Dutt bought a 9-mm pistol and an AK-56 rifle from people who a month later unleashed the 1993 Mumbai blasts that killed 257 people. On Tuesday, in the central Mumbai court that had been set up to try those people, the past came back to haunt Dutt. “Everyone makes mistakes,” Judge Pramod Kode told him, “but the element of criminality in you is incurable.”

Towards evening, Dutt was taken away to Arthur Road Jail. He had asked for three things: that he be allowed to call his daughter Trishaala in New York; that he be imprisoned in Arthur Road Jail; and that the police do not hustle him. All three requests were granted.

Actor to move apex court

Dutt’s lawyer Farhana Shah said the actor would move the Supreme Court, asking for Judge Kode’s order to be set aside, and plead for bail till the petition is disposed of.

Tuesday’s sentencing brought the curtains down on the longest running trial in India’s judicial history. Twelve convicts have been given death; 20 have been sentenced to life imprisonment.

A little earlier, as Russi Mulla — who had disposed of the pistol that Dutt had bought was let off on probation — things had not looked so grim for the star. Soon after, Judge Kode ruled out probation for Dutt. From then on, the actor hung on to the judge’s every word.

When the sentence was announced, Dutt looked dazed and bewildered. “I had thought my probation application would be accepted, so I did not sort out my personal and family matters,” he said.

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1 comment:

Priyantha De Silva said...

MUMBAI: The only legal road ahead for Sanjay Dutt is to approach the Supreme Court. The actor will have to file an appeal against the conviction and sentencing and seek bail as soon as possible.

And approaching the apex court, and setting the ball rolling for the bail, could start as early as Wednesday as Dutt's legal team has a copy of the operative part of the sentencing order.

All appeals against orders passed by a Tada court lie only in the apex court and this is where the battle will now be fought for Dutt's release.

Such appeals are usually mentioned before the Chief Justice of India and he, depending on the urgency of the matter, decides the next date of the actual hearing of the plea for interim orders. But this could take anything between a day and weeks as it will have to wait for the court's convenience.

But, on the flip side, the Central Bureau of Investigation can also approach the Supreme Court to appeal and seek enhancement of Dutt's prison term or even against his acquittal under Tada.

Petitions can also be filed by any of the blast victims against the sentence handed out to Dutt. But criminal expert Nitin Pradhan said an appeal by an NGO might not be entertained; only the state, the accused and the affected persons and witnesses could be parties to the case.

"The apex court does not interfere on facts but looks into whether those facts have been appreciated or interpreted properly by the judge," said police officer-turned-advocate Y P Singh.

It could even order a retrial given the fact that Abu Salem's statements were not taken into account. Dutt's is a borderline case as the other accused who helped the actor were convicted under Tada," Singh added on Tuesday.

"You must be prepared to face the consequences if you have committed an offence," criminal lawyer Adik Shirodkar said.

In Dutt's case, Shirodkar said, there was a hypothetical possibility for enhancing the sentence. But he was equally quick to pint out that the reverse might also happen. "There is also a chance that the apex court may acquit him." But enhancement of term was not a likely option, Pradhan said.

"It's mere speculation," he added. Pradhan has represented and argued for 22 accused in the case, including the bomb planters.

"Once he was acquitted of charges under TADA, what remained was the relatively minor offence under the Arms Act of possessing a weapon in a notified area," Pradhan explained.

"The prosecution could not even prove during the trial whether the AK-56 was part of the arms consignment that landed on the Konkan coast before the blasts. Dutt did not have any intention of being nor was part of terrorist conspiracy," he added.

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