Barring any last-minute hitches, Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, convicted in 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts case, will be a free man on Thursday when he walks out of Pune's Yerawada jail after he was granted remission in his five-year sentence.
On the eve of his release after serving 42 months behind bars, a public interest litigation was filed in the Bombay high court on Wednesday, challenging his early release on remission, alleging that the 56-year-old actor was getting preferential treatment.
Maharashtra Minister of State for Home Ram Shinde had earlier said the actor will be completing his jail term on February 25, after counting in the eight months and 16 days he earned as exemption or remission on account of good behaviour in prison.
Jail officials said the actor, who has been dogged by controversies triggered by accusations that he availed of irregular remission in his sentence and was accorded a special treatment by the authorities, will be released on Thursday.
According to his lawyers, Dutt's remission days were calculated in accordance with rules and jail manual.
"Dutt will be released tomorrow (February 25) in the morning around 10 am in keeping with the normal procedures as applied to every prisoner who has completed his sentence and jail term," Yerawada Jail Superintendent U T Pawar told PTI.
Pawar refuted allegations that the jail authorities had given Dutt a special treatment during his stay in view of his celebrity status.
"His remission was worked out in compliance with jail rules and he was treated like any other convict," he said.
The PIL filed by social activist Pradeep Bhalekar urges the high court to cancel the government's decision granting the remission and to order the actor to be taken into custody again to serve his entire five-year sentence imposed on him by the apex court.
"The remission granted to Dutt is wrong and illegal. What is the good behavior and conduct that has been held as a ground for granting him remission and reducing his sentence? What about all the other convicts especially in petty offences who are rotting in jail? They have also filed applications seeking remission but there has been no order on those," the petitioner's lawyer Nitin Satpute told PTI in Mumbai.
Satpute said he would mention the PIL before the appropriate bench on Thursday.
Dutt was lodged in the Yerawada prison in May 2013 to undergo remainder of his sentence after being convicted for illegal possession of arms under the arms act.
According to jail officials, the "Khalnayak" and "Munnabhai" of the silver screen was given work of making paper bags in his cell.
Embroiled in heated debates over his frequent parole and furlough leave in many quarters, the actor, however, consistently participated in the programmes on internal circuit jail radio, prison sources said.
The Bollywood star was arrested on April 19, 1993, for possession and destruction of an AK-56 rifle, which was a part of cache of arms and explosives which landed in India prior to the serial blasts of March 1993. During the investigation and the marathon trial, he spent 18 months in jail.