Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt will be released from prison next month after serving a sentence for possessing weapons supplied by gangsters behind the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts, reports said yesterday. The disgraced star will walk free from Yerwada Central Jail in the western state of Maharashtra on February 27, slightly ahead of schedule, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported. Dutt was originally sentenced to a six-year term after being convicted in 2006 of possessing guns supplied by mafia bosses who orchestrated the series of bombings in Mumbai that killed 257 people.
He spent 18 months in prison before being released on bail in 2007, pending an appeal. In March 2013, the Supreme Court upheld his conviction but cut his prison term from six years to five. Dutt was later granted four extra weeks of freedom to work on unfinished movies and went back to jail in May that year to serve the remaining three-and-a-half years of his sentence. PTI said yesterday that Maharashtra Home Minister Ranjit Patil had granted Dutt remission, clearing his release for February 27. Calls and text messages to the minister by AFP went unanswered. The 56-year-old actor shot to fame in the mid-1980s in a string of action movies in which he performed his own stunts, earning him the nickname “Deadly Dutt”.
He is best known for playing a mobster with a heart of gold in the popular “Munnabhai” series. The 1993 attacks were believed to have been staged by Muslim underworld figures in retaliation for religious riots in which mainly Muslims died, following the razing of an ancient mosque at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh state. Dutt was found guilty of possession of an automatic rifle and a pistol, which he insisted were only meant to protect his family in the tense atmosphere in Mumbai following the mosque’s destruction. In 2007, he was acquitted of more serious charges of conspiracy in the deadly blasts, which also wounded more than 700 people.-AFP