THE bombshell that the Supreme Court dropped on Thursday when it gave its verdict in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts undoubtedly had a sobering effect on the world’s second biggest film industry. Though Supreme Court judge P Sathashivam punished 98 people for the ghastly crime which killed over 250 people in a span of less than three hours on March 12, 1993, the prime accused who also happens to be the celebrity face of terrorism – Sanjay Dutt got a commuted sentence of five years in prison from the earlier six years sentence given by TADA court in Mumbai.
The judgement has many firsts in its reading. Ten of the convicts who were sentenced to death had their sentence commuted to life owing to their poverty. One convict has been set free as he is suffering from AIDS. One accused by the name of Mohammed Moin Faridullah Qureshi who was all of 17 years and three months when he committed the crime was not treated as a juvenile offender in spite of his legal age. The Supreme Court while upholding his conviction ruled that terrorism cannot discriminate between minor and major accused. The offence was termed grave and heinous.
Pakistan, for the first time in a Supreme Court judgement, has been indicted of fostering terrorism. Though there are many legal experts who have taken exception to this as it would lead to a barrage of such court judgements coming from across the border. But the most striking part of the judgement has been the treatment given to Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt for being part of the gang which led to the bomb blasts.
It was also alleged that he ostensibly sought to keep fire arms to protect his family after the communal riots in Mumbai. He has been accused of keeping AK-56, large haul of hand grenades and several rounds of ammunition in his residence. To get fire arms he got in touch with global terror leaders Dawood Ibrahim, Tiger Memon, Dawood’s younger brother Anees Ibrahim, Chotta Shakeel and Mohammed Ahmed Umar Dossa. Sanjay Dutt even had dinner with Dawood Ibrahim in Dubai during a film shoot. He was 34 years old when he got involved in Mumbai bomb blasts case, and even if his participation in the conspiracy could not be proved and has been accused of only keeping fire arms at his residence, there is quite a lot of unanswered questions still hanging in the air after the 20-year long trial. The conspiracy angle strangely has not been challenged in the higher court by the state.
Tiger Memon’s younger brother Abdul Razak Memon who is the mastermind in the 1993 serial bomb blasts in Mumbai, has been awarded a death sentence. Though the present UPA government has played footsie for so long over hanging prime accused in terror cases, and in a sudden spurt of hyper-nationalism hanged both Azmal Kasab and Afzal Guru, it remains to be seen how the government will close the chapter on 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts.
Bollywood personalities had all expressed their dismay and shock at the Supreme Court verdict for Sanjay Dutt as if they had expected him to be released after a slap on the wrist. There were many in film fraternity who chose to remain silent on this occasion in mute appreciation of the Supreme Court verdict on Sanjay Dutt.
Sanjay Dutt has very little room for escaping the long arms of law any more. Even if then prime minister Narasimha Rao was accused by tabloid newspapers of having influenced the course of justice and there were grave charges of impropriety of the Congress state government in not allowing his interrogation by police officials (there are also allegations made by Mumbai police officials that his residence where the large haul of arms used in the bomb blasts was stored and had not been raided on time) because of his relations with Congress party, justice had been done – fairly and squarely. Sanjay Dutt will have to spend at least three more years in jail as he has spent 18 months in jail during the trial. He can seek a review of the Supreme Court judgement but even his best legal friends concede he got away leniently. Many legal experts have also loudly wondered if common people can get away with murder the way Sanjay Dutt did. The other option for Sanjay Dutt is to garner enough public sympathy so that the governor of Maharashtra would give him pardon. But that would entirely depend on the fact that he has a ‘Gandhigiri’ movie releasing in the near future!