The Supreme Court yesterday upheld actor Sanjay Dutt’s conviction in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case under the Arms Act and sentenced him to five years in jail, concluding that “No foul play can be assumed in view of the fact that the events happened in quick succession, one after the other, lending credibility and truthfulness to the whole episode.”
The court, explaining why the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act (TADA) was not applied against Dutt, held that mere possession of a weapon did not amount to an offence under that Act. The judgement says that the sequence of events and the arrest of Dutt formed part of an ‘unbroken chain inseparably connected.’
“We are in agreement with the conclusion arrived at by the designated Court... we are of the view that the course adopted by the trial court was correct,” the division bench of justices P Sathasivam and Dr BS Chauhan concluded.
Dutt had been introduced to Dawood and his brother Anees while shooting for a film in Dubai. He had then established contact with Anees, asking him to provide weapons, purportedly for his protection.
On January 15, 1993, Samir Hingora and Hanif Kandawala, owners of Magnum videos, along with Ibrahim Chauhan alias Baba and don Abu Salem came to Dutt’s Pali Hill residence and told him they would deliver the weapons he had requested the next day.
Three AK-56 Rifles, 250 rounds of ammunition and some hand grenades were then brought by car to Dutt’s residence. On January 18, on Dutt’s request, Mansoor Ahmed, another accused in the case, took some of the weapons and ammunition away.
While shooting in Mauritius, Dutt learnt that he was under the radar for possession of weapons. Dutt, who later said that he had kept the weapons at the residence of his friend Yusuf Nalwala, then requested Nalwala to destroy the weapons. Nalwala later led police to Kersi Adajania, his friend, who had allegedly helped destroy the weapons.
Upon his return to India, Dutt was arrested under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA) on charges of possessing illegal arms and having contacts with the main conspirators of the serial blasts.
Defending Dutt, senior advocate Haresh Salve had urged the court to take ‘judicial notice’ of the state of affairs in the city after the Babri Masjid demolition, and pointed out that the legislature never intended to cover people like Dutt when it passed TADA.
Though TADA confessions, which are recorded by persons not below the rank of Superintendent of Police, cannot be used in any other offence, there are certain exceptions. According to an earlier Supreme Court judgment, since the trial of all the blast accused was a joint trial, the confession could be used to secure a conviction even under the Arms Act.