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Sanjay Dutt gets another day's respite
A special court handing out sentences in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts Wednesday gave actor Sanjay Dutt one more day to surrender, pending his plea for release on probation.
Dutt had urged for leniency before the special Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Preventive) Act (TADA) court that convicted him in November 2006 for possessing illegal arms but absolved him of terror conspiracy.
The special court gave him time till 1 p.m. Thursday to surrender as a decision on his plea for release was pending and the argument between the defence and prosecution remained inconclusive Wednesday.
The court, which had granted him a one-day bail extension Tuesday, heard arguments of the prosecution on Dutt's application seeking benefit under the Probation of Offenders Act.
"The argument of prosecution on Sanjay Dutt's plea was inconclusive and will continue on Thursday. He will get one more day to surrender before the court," Special Judge Promod Kode said after hearing daylong arguments from the actor's senior counsel Harshad Ponda and special prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam.
The "Munnabhai" star had filed an application under the Probation of Offenders Act on Jan 15, pleading the court that he be released on probation for good conduct and character.
Clad in a purple shirt and trademark blue jeans, Dutt, 47, looked visibly tense through the day and was seen repeatedly conferring with his lawyers in the crowded courtroom inside the high-security Arthur Road Jail premises.
A day after the actor's senior counsel V.K. Monohar argued that his case was fit for seeking relief under the provisions of the act, Nikam said benefits of Section 4 of the act could not be extended to Dutt.
"The nature of the offence and the character of the offender must be taken into consideration in the case and the effects of the benefits if extended to the offender must be taken into consideration," Nikam told the court.
"Dutt was given the AK-56 rifle and ammunition by co-accused Abu Salem and Baba Chowan at the behest of mobster Dawood Ibrahim's brother Anees Ibrahim.
"Before receiving the AK-56 and other deadly weapons, Dutt had already been in possession of four firearms, which were sufficient for his self-defence and that of his family and there was no need for him to keep the AK-56 rifle."
This was the fifth reprieve for the Bollywood star since November when he was found guilty of possessing a 9mm pistol and an AK-56 rifle.
Under the Arms Act, Dutt faces punishment ranging from five to 10 years in jail.
Sanjay, who already possessed licensed pistols, had acquired an AK-56 allegedly from mobster Abu Salem's aide Ibrahim Mussa in January 1993 as he thought he needed self-protection.
He was arrested in April 1993, a month after the blasts rocked Mumbai, and spent nearly 16 months in jail in two stretches.