MUMBAI (Reuters) - Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt was jailed for six years on Tuesday for getting guns from gangsters involved in India’s worst bombings, ending an epic trial that transfixed the country with tales of terror and revenge.
Dutt, an immensely popular star known for his macho anti-hero roles and troubled private life, was found guilty of acquiring illegal weapons from those blamed for the bombings in Mumbai that killed 257 people in 1993.
He has already served 16 months in jail while awaiting trial and his lawyer said he would appeal. He has millions of dollars riding on him in films under production, and millions more fans in Bollywood, the world’s largest film industry by ticket sales.
The muscular 48-year-old was cleared of conspiracy charges in the serial blasts in Mumbai, but was found guilty of illegal possession of an automatic rifle and a pistol.
“The crime was not brutal, cruel, ghastly, inhuman, not anti-social, not immoral and did not result in any harm to anyone,” judge Pramod Kode said, but added it was still a serious offence and he had encouraged others to break the law.
“It was an eminently dangerous act. With the punishment of a minimum of five years and maximum of 10 years it can in no way be a minor offence or of a less grave nature.”
Dutt was also fined 25,000 rupees.
The actor is the most high-profile among 100 people, mostly Muslims, found guilty in the bombings trial, one of the world’s longest court cases.
The 1993 Mumbai attacks were ordered by India’s most wanted man, Dawood Ibrahim, a Muslim, to avenge the razing of a 16th-century mosque by Hindu zealots in 1992 and subsequent Hindu-Muslim riots in India, police say.
“MADE A MISTAKE”
Ibrahim and his top associates have not faced trial as they fled the country, police say. Ibrahim is believed to be hiding in Pakistan, but the government in Islamabad denies this.
Dutt’s lawyers had urged that the actor be set free for his good behaviour during his bail. But the court rejected the argument.
The actor, dressed in a white shirt and blue jeans with a holy vermilion streak on his forehead, did not react as the verdict was read, but afterwards approached the judge.
“I made a mistake sir,” he said, requesting time to surrender as he wanted to speak to his daughter in the United States.
Son of legendary film couple Sunil Dutt and Nargis, the actor has been on bail since 1995.
“This is very harsh sentence, Sanjay is a great person,” film producer and friend Bunty Walia told Times Now television. “I am saddened by the outcome.”
A former drug addict, Dutt was never far from controversy and his private life has consistently made the headlines.
In 2001, he was investigated for alleged money-laundering deals between the Mumbai underworld and Bollywood. He was also alleged to have been caught in a taped conversation with gangsters accused of kidnapping, extortion and murder.
But he has retained popular support and sympathy from Bollywood and hundreds of fans gathered outside the court.
Dutt’s rollercoaster career had been on an upswing in recent years, particularly after he starred in a film about a do-gooder gangster. Its sequel had him espousing Indian freedom hero Gandhi’s non violent principles.