A TADA court in Mumbai on Tuesday convicted actor Sanjay Dutt [Images] in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case.
Sanjay, who spent about 16 months in prison after his arrest in April 1993, was found guilty under Sections 3 and 7 read with Section 25 of the Indian Arms Act. Under Section 3, he was found guilty of possessing a 9mm pistol and under Section 7 for possessing an AK-56 rifle, a prohibited weapon.
Under these charges, he faces a maximum of five years in prison. The court, on Sanjay's plea, extended his bail and asked him to surrender on December 19. The court also let off Sanjay's friends Yusuf Nallawalla and Kersi Adajenia for terrorism charges but found them guilty under the Arms Act and for destroying evidence.
Dutt received three AK-56 rifles, its ammunition, 9 mm pistol, its cartridges and hand grenades, which were part of the consignment smuggled by Tiger Memon to set off a series of blasts in Mumbai on March 12, 1993.
"During my reasoning, I have not found him (Sanjay) to be a terrorist," Judge P D Kode said as the bollywood actor pensively awaited the verdict.
Accepting 47-year-old Sanjay's confession, Kode observed: "Considering matters in his confession and also taking into account certain admissions from other evidence, I accept the stand of Sanjay of acquiring and possessing weapons for self-defence."
The CBI had said that Yusuf Nallawalla and Kersi Adajenia had helped Sanjay in destroying an AK-56 rifle by melting it in a foundry and disposing of the remains in the sea.
The court held Zebunisa Qazi guilty of abetting terrorist acts by keeping in her possession weapons delivered to her by gangster Abu Salem [Images] and his men. The CBI said Salem and his associate Manzoor Ahmed Syed had carried weapons from Sanjay's residence to Zebunisa's house.
The court let off Nallawalla and Adajenia for TADA charges under Section 3(3) (aiding and abetting terrorist acts), Section 5 (possession of arms) and Section 6 (contravening other laws). Zebunisa was acquitted of charges under Section 5 of TADA for possessing arms. She was given two weeks to surrender and asked to furnish a personal bond of Rs three lakh.
The court also held former additional customs collector Som Nath Thapa guilty of participating in the conspiracy behind the 1993 blasts and for aiding and abetting terrorist acts.
It said that he had aided underworld don Dawood Ibrahim [Images] and his associates by facilitating the landing of arms, which were smuggled in for engineering the blasts, at the Shekhadi coast in Maharashtra's Raigad district. The court found Thapa guilty for not preventing the smuggling of arms despite having information and knowledge about the landing of weapons.
It accepted the confessions of co-accused and evidence provided by CBI and held Thapa guilty under Section 3(3) of TADA for aiding terrorist acts and Section 120b of IPC for participating in the conspiracy. Thapa has sought bail, saying he was suffering from lung cancer for the past two years and undergoing chemotherapy.