Dutt gets four more weeks to surrender

NEW DELHI (TIP): The Supreme Court on April 17 granted four more weeks to film actor Sanjay Dutt for his surrender to serve 3.5 years in jail, holding that the CBI had no business to oppose his plea as it did not even bother to challenge his acquittal under the prevention of terrorism law.

A Bench comprising Justices P Sathasivam and BS Chauhan said Dutt could take four more weeks from tomorrow, the deadline set in its March 21 judgment, before his surrender. Dutt had approached the SC seeking six months for his surrender to complete his acting commitments involving seven movies and an investment of over Rs 278 crore. “We are not inclined to extend the time by six months. However, we extend the time by four weeks from tomorrow.

It is made clear that no further extension will be granted,” it said in the order. A trial court set up under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) had cleared him of the charges of his role in the 1993 serial blasts at 13 locations in Mumbai in which over 250 people were killed and more than 700 injured. However, the TADA court convicted and sentenced him to six years for illegal possession of fire arms and ammunition. While the CBI did not challenge his acquittal under TADA charges, Dutt appealed against his conviction which resulted in the SC reducing his sentence by one year.

Since he has already served 1.5 years of his sentence during the trial period, he has to serve out the remaining 3.5 years. “You did not seek review of his acquittal under TADA,” Justice Sathasivam told Additional Solicitor General Harin Raval when he objected to Dutt’s plea for extension of time.

The Bench did not agree with the ASG’s contention that granting extension of time amounted to SC reviewing its own verdict without any review petition from Dutt. It said Section 148 of the Civil Procedure Code empowered it to release convicts for a maximum period of 30 days.

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The SC also enjoyed immense powers under Article 142 of the Constitution for the purpose, it said. Allaying the apprehension of the ASG, who argued for the CBI, that the relief being granted to Dutt would open the flood gates for other convicts, numbering about 100, in the case, the Bench said it would deal with such a situation on a case-to-case basis. Pointing out every case was different, the Bench carefully noted in its order that it was granting relief to Dutt in view of the “peculiar facts and circumstances of the case and the reasons stated in the petition.” Dutt’s senior counsel Harish Salve had clarified at the outset that his client was seeking “mercy” without resorting to any constitutional and legal provisions

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