India’s Supreme Court sentenced Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt to five years in jail for illegal weapons possession in a case linked to a 1993 bombing that killed 257 people in Mumbai.
The court on Thursday rejected Dutt’s appeal and ordered him to surrender to police within four weeks on the charge of possessing three automatic rifles and a pistol that were supplied to him by men subsequently convicted in the bombing.
Dutt, one of Bollywood’s biggest stars, said he was “shattered and in emotional distress” as he had suffered for 20 years and already spent 18 months in prison.
“I am heartbroken because today along with me, my three children and my wife and my family will undergo the punishment,” Dutt said in a statement.
“I know in my heart that I have always been a good human being, respected the system and always been loyal to my country.”
“I know in my heart that I have always been a good human being.“
– Sanjay Dutt, Bollywood actor
The actor’s case was part of a sprawling Mumbai bombing trial that has dragged on for 18 years.
Dutt maintains that he knew nothing about the bombing plot and that he asked for the guns to protect his family – his mother was Muslim and his father Hindu – after receiving threats during sectarian riots in Mumbai.
The Supreme Court had earlier sentenced Dutt to six years in prison. He served 18 months in jail before he was released on bail in November 2007 pending an appeal in the top court.
The court had earlier acquitted Dutt of the more serious charges of terrorism and conspiracy.
Dutt’s lawyer Satish Maneshinde said the 53-year-old actor would take some time before deciding on his next step.
Despite his brush with the law and his stints in jail, Dutt’s Bollywood career flourished over the past two decades. He gained enormous popularity for a series of Hindi films in which he played the role of a reformed thug who follows the teachings of nonviolence advocate and Indian independence hero Mohandas Gandhi.
Social media platforms were ablaze with discussion over the details of the verdict on Wednesday, with #Sanjaydutt trending worldwide.
Dutt has previously said that the weapons were to protect his family during the Hindu-Muslim rioting of 1993 after the destruction of the Babri Masjid by the Hindu right wing in the town of Ayodhya.
Earlier the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of Yakub Memon in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case, describing him as the mastermind behind the attacks. The court also said the nature of Dutt’s offence meant that the actor could not be released on probation.
Meanwhile, the court reduced the death sentence of ten others to life terms on the grounds that their families had suffered for the better part of almost two decades.
Tehelka magazine reported that the court said Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI were involved in the blasts, but also blamed Indian police, customs and coastal guards for the incident.