He had no link to conspiracy and no friendship with Dawood Ibrahim, says counsel

Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, who was sentenced to six years in jail under the Arms Act but was exonerated from terror offences under the TADA, on Tuesday denied in the Supreme Court his connection with the March 12, 1993 Mumbai blasts case, in which he was convicted.

Mr. Dutt was one of the accused granted bail by the Supreme Court, which is hearing a batch of appeals in the case. He was convicted in July 2007 of illegal possession of a 9-mm pistol and an AK 56 rifle, but was acquitted of more serious charges under the TADA. He spent 16 months in jail after his arrest in 1993.

Appearing for Mr. Dutt, senior counsel Harish Salve and counsel K. Hari Shankar submitted before a Bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and B.S. Chauhan that the actor had nothing to do with the case, nor had he any link to the conspiracy.

Mr. Salve said Mr. Dutt was given three rifles because his family was getting threats after the Babri Masjid demolition. He immediately returned two rifles and the grenades, which were kept in his car; he even gave away the third rifle to be destroyed. No weapon was recovered from his residence, Mr. Salve said, and the actor had a pistol in September 1992, even before the blasts occurred.

When Justice Sathasivam asked Mr. Salve about the relationship between Mr. Dutt and underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, Mr. Salve read out the actor’s confessional statement and said: “He had dinner with Dawood Ibrahim in his house in Dubai with two film producers.”

When Justice Sathasivam told Mr. Salve: “You [Mr. Dutt] have mentioned your friendship with Dawood,” Mr. Salve said: “He had no friendship with the underworld don.”

When Justice Sathasivam asked: “Do you mean to say that your relationship with Dawood is only for film shooting?,” Mr. Salve answered “Yes.”

When the judge wanted to know about his connection with the Memon brothers, Mr. Salve said the actor had no connection with them. Mere possession of arms in a notified area without any role in the conspiracy would snap any link with the case, he said.

When counsel drew the court’s attention to Mr. Dutt retracting his confession statement, Justice Sathasivam asked: “Why did he retract after one-and-a-half years. You [the actor] could have done it immediately.”

To this, counsel said: “This was not a case under the TADA at all, and confession would have no relevance without…any conspiracy. When there is no nexus, confession can’t be the basis for conviction.”

When Mr. Salve said the CBI did not file an appeal against Mr. Dutt’s acquittal, Justice Chauhan told counsel that the grievance of the other accused was why the CBI did not file an appeal when it had chosen to in their cases. Mr. Salve said it was for the CBI to answer this question. Arguments will continue on August 16.

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