Indo-Asian News ServiceNew Delhi, (IANS) A month before special judge P.D. Kode pronounced Bollywood’s aging macho star Sanjay Dutt guilty of possessing arms, the 47-year-old celebrity stoically maintained in a television interview that he would accept the court’s verdict and was mentally prepared for the worst.
“I will start crying,” he maintained if he was acquitted but will “face it” if the verdict went the other way around. “I have to”, Dutt said.
With Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) court judge Kode delivering a mixed verdict Tuesday – finding him guilty of illegal possession of arms, but absolving him of the charges of the larger conspiracy in the 1993 Mumbai terror bombings that killed 257 people – Dutt must surely be a relieved person.
“After due reasoning during the trial, I did not find him to be a terrorist,” special judge P.D. Kode said.
This is the best Dutt could have bargained for, considering that a conviction under TADA would have virtually snuffed out his film career, sending him back to the cooler in Arthur Jail where he spent 18 long months in 1993-94.
In fact, it is a verdict that should gladden the hearts of the inhabitants of Imperial Heights – the Dutt residence at Pali Hill – who have been on tenterhooks ever since Kode started giving his verdicts in one of the most widely anticipated trials in the country’s history in September.
His ebullient co-star in the blockbuster “Lage Raho Munnabhai”, Arshad Warsi, succinctly summed the verdict.
Even his sister, Congress MP Priya Dutt, who took a while understanding the full impact of verdict, was visibly reassured.
“I am happy the court has not found him a terrorist. If my father (Sunil Dutt) was alive today, he would quietly be crying in a corner,” she said.
Dutt, who claims that he has not been able to work for the last three months and was unable to concentrate because of the verdict, will agree that his frequent visits to the Siddhivinayak temple have been half-answered.
With an estimated Rs.1.5 billion riding on him for movies that are still under production and many other productions on the anvil, Dutt, for the moment, can walk out a free man till Dec 19 when he is on the extended bail.
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