One associate let off, another gets bail and 5-year rigorous imprisonment for the third
MUMBAI: Film actor Sanjay Dutt, 48, was on Tuesday sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for six years and fined Rs. 25, 000 in the 1993 blasts case for illegal possession of a prohibited weapon.
Of his three associates, Russi Mulla, 64, was released under the Probation of Offenders Act (POA).
Kersi Adjania, 77, was granted bail and Yusuf Nulwalla sentenced to five-year RI and fined Rs.25,000 for possessing the weapon and attempting to destroy the evidence.
The prosecution case was that Dutt had acquired an AK-56 in January 1993 after the riots in Mumbai from Abu Salem, and was in touch with Anees Ibrahim, brother of Dawood Ibrahim, the mastermind behind the serial blasts.
Three AK-56 rifles and some ammunition were delivered to his house by Samir Hingora (who has been sentenced to nine years) and others. He returned two of them and kept only one.
When Dutt went to Mauritius for shooting a film, he heard about the arrest of his friends Hanif Kadawala and Hingora. He called Yusuf Nulwalla and asked him to go to his house and get rid of the contents kept in a black bag. Nulwalla took the bag containing an AK-56, two empty magazines, 250 rounds of ammunition and a 9-mm pistol to Adjania and asked him to destroy it.
While the rifle was broken into pieces, the pistol was given to Russi Mulla, who did not have any knowledge of its being part of the illegal consignment of Dutt.
Dutt was arrested on April 19, 1993 on his arrival from Mauritius. He spent 16 months during his two jail terms before getting bail.
Special Judge P.D. Kode elaborated on the application filed by the four accused under the POA. He said factors such as the nature of offence, circumstances and character of an accused were considered in a probation application. Mulla had no knowledge of the fact that the pistol was part of Dutt’s illegal consignment.
He agreed to keep it when Adjania told him to do so. However, his fault was “sheer negligence” of not enquiring about the consignment. Considering his age and the factthat the pistol was “not put to any unlawful use,” the Judge granted him relief under the POA on a personal bond of Rs.1 lakh and a surety for a similar amount. Mulla looked relieved and looked up as the Judge announced his release.
Mr. Justice Kode then took up the case of Dutt, Nulwalla and Adjania together. He said the nature of the crime could outweigh the character aspect of a probation application. Referring to the threat perception to Dutt’s family during the riots mentioned in his confession, he said Dutt acquired a prohibited firearm on the suggestion of his friends Kadawala (shot dead during the trial in February 2001) and Hingora.
The Judge said illegal acts could not be termed noble. The accused were not immature at the time of offence and for every citizen laws of nation should stand first. He noted that the weapon could have resulted in mass destruction and it was an eminently dangerous act. He remarked about Sanjay’s case further saying “not only did he commit the offence he also made others commit an offence of destroying it.”
The Judge also drew attention to Dutt illegally possessing a pistol in September 1992 and being introduced to Dawood Ibrahim in Dubai and even attending a party where gangsters Iqbal Mirchi, Chota Rajan and Sharad Shetty were present. Noting that possessing AK-56 was not his first offence Judge Kode rejected the probation application of Sanjay Dutt and sentenced him to six years and slapped a fine of Rs. 25, 000.
The Judge said this act of destroying the weapon was a criminal conspiracy though it did not result in a ghastly act. He also sentenced Nulwalla to five years and Rs 25, 000 and Kersi to two years for attempting to destroy the evidence. However, the court has the right to grant bail to an accused whose sentence is less than three years and taking Kersi’s role and age into consideration he was granted bail on a personal bond of Rs. 1 lakh and a personal surety of like amount.
Dutt and Nulwalla were taken into custody in the evening after meeting with their relatives. Their lawyers said they would approach the Supreme Court after the papers were ready.