It was probably the most difficult moment of his life. A moment when he stood on a one-way street. There was nothing, nothing at all that he, Sunil Dutt, could do to save his son Sanjay Dutt from being arrested. The Mumbai Police had found that the actor had acquired deadly AK-56s from Dawood Ibrahim’s brother Anees Ibrahim, and had even had one destroyed after the serial blasts in Bombay that left 257 people dead.
At that moment, there was only one thing Sunil Dutt could do. He picked up the phone and informed the then Police Commissioner AS Samra that his son was returning that night — April 19, 1993 — from Mauritius.
The police picked up Sanjay from the airport, allowed him to sleep on the sofa in one of the officers’ rooms, and at 10am the next day, the then Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) MN Singh and his deputy Rakesh Maria started the interrogation. Sanjay broke down and narrated the entire story. The same evening, Sunil Dutt and his daughter Priya Dutt met Sanjay in the presence of the police officers. Sunil Dutt was still not ready to believe that his son could have been involved in the blasts conspiracy. Maria told Sanjay to tell his father the truth, and Sanjay conceded that he had been in possession of an assault rifle and some ammunition that he had got from Anees Ibrahim. Sunil Dutt wanted to know the reason why. He was not prepared for the answer: “Because I have Muslim blood in my veins. I could not bear what was happening in the city.” A crestfallen Sunil Dutt left the police headquarters. It was a moment almost worse than the shock of the previous day.
Quite in contrast to what he felt in 1993, Sanjay’s forehead was smeared with a long red tilak on judgement day — November 28, 2006. The air inside the TADA courtroom was heavy with tension and fear. An ashen-faced Sanjay sat head down next to his friend and co-accused Yusuf Nullwala, whom he had called from Mauritius and asked to destroy one of the AK-56s in his possession. A few rows behind them was 64-year-old Zaibunissa Kazi, another co-accused.
Thirteen years after he was arrested on charges of acquiring three AK-56 rifles, nine magazines, 450 cartridges and over 20 hand grenades — weapons and explosives associated either with terrorists or counter-insurgency forces — the fate of the filmstar was finally to be decided and Sanjay was nervous. Judge PD Kode walked in to a packed courtroom and first summoned dismissed customs officer SK Thapa to the witness box. As customs officer, Thapa had winked while a cache of arms and explosives was smuggled into the country in 1993 for acts of terrorism. Thapa, the judge said, had been found guilty under different sections of TADA — the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, passed in 1987 to counter acts of terror.
Kode then called out Zaibunissa Kazi’s name. Two of the three AK-56 rifles, some ammunition and 20 hand grenades returned by Sanjay had been kept at her house for a few days. The judgement was as severe as the previous one. She was held guilty under Section 3(3) of TADA. The sub-section defines a convict as one who “conspires or attempts to commit, or advocates, abets, advises or incites or knowingly facilitates the commission of a terrorist act or any act preparatory to a terrorist act.”
Tension was visible on the face of Satish Maneshinde, one of Sanjay Dutt’s key lawyers. He was later to say this to a Tehelka spycam: “The moment she was convicted, I thought Sanjay too would be convicted under TADA.” (See box) He had reasons for admitting this. Unlike his client Sanjay, who had asked for the weapons, stored them, asked for them to be destroyed and even admitted to his association with Anees Ibrahim, Zaibunissa Kazi had only stored them for a few days. Her role was in no way comparable to Sanjay’s and nobody knew it better than Sanjay’s lawyer.
A day earlier, another co-accused Manzoor Ahmed had similarly been held guilty under Section 3(3) of TADA. Manzoor’s role too was clear in Maneshinde’s head: he had been called by gangster Abu Salem — like Manzoor, also from Azamgarh in UP — and the two had driven to Sanjay’s house to pick up the bag that was then kept at Zaibunissa Kazi’s house. Both she and Manzoor face the prospect of spending a minimum five years in jail, if not a life term.
A day after Sanjay’s verdict, two other co-accused, Samir Hingora and Baba Mussa Chauhan, who were part of the chain that delivered weapons to the filmstar’s house in Mumbai’s Pali Hill, were convicted under Sections 5 and 3(3) of TADA — which deal with conspiracy and possession of prohibited arms in city limits — besides being held guilty under different sections of the Arms Act and the Explosives Act. The nature of the charges and the evidence against Chauhan and Sanjay were similar. Chauhan, like Sanjay, had in his possession three AK-56 rifles, some cartridges, magazines and hand grenades. Both Sanjay and Chauhan had the arms delivered to them by the same person — Abu Salem, who after the serial blasts of 1993 escaped the country and carried out criminal activities in India from abroad before being extradited in 2005.
For those present in court, Sanjay’s conviction under TADA seemed a fait accompli. But, in what must have been a huge relief for Sanjay and his battery of lawyers, he was convicted under the Arms Act and is thus now in a position to even seek probation which, if granted, will not see him go to jail at all.
No one knows the anomaly of the judgement better than Maneshinde. On the spycam, he says, “When I will be asked by the Supreme Court why everyone else has got TADA and my client only the Arms Act, I will have no answer.” The statement speaks volumes coming as it does from Sanjay’s own lawyer. Why is the lawyer worried?
SANJAY DUTT: THE CENTRAL FIGURE
Maneshinde and most lawyers familiar with the case know that Sanjay Dutt was the central figure in the plot. Soon after the verbal order on November 28, 2006, eminent lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani, who had also initially defended Sanjay, wrote in Tehelka that the other accused had not had the benefit of what — in Sanjay’s case — he called the “benign judicial eye”. After all, Sanjay was the one who had asked for lethal weapons from his friend and gangster Anees Ibrahim, who along with his brother Dawood, is among the main conspirators of the 1993 blasts. It was Sanjay who had retained one AK-56 and some ammunition while returning two assault rifles, hand grenades and ammunition. In Manzoor’s case, his car had been used to bring back a part of the consignment from Sanjay’s residence. As for Zaibunissa Kazi, she had allowed her house to be used as a transit point. The weapons were meant neither for her nor for Manzoor. The evidence on record shows that their offence was minor when compared to that of Sanjay who kept three AK-56s and hand grenades for close to a week and continued to retain one assault rifle for almost a month after serial blasts rocked Bombay. Apprehending his arrest, Sanjay had the weapons destroyed and, quite unlike Manzoor, he made seven calls to Anees.
THE MYSTERIOUS SANJAY-ANEES PHONE RECORDS
The crucial information that Sanjay had been calling Anees came from the filmstar himself. Says MN Singh, who headed the investigation, “He himself said that he had made the calls. This information came from him and only then did we get the supporting mtnl printouts.” The printouts showed that seven calls had been made to Anees’s number at White House in Dubai. The police also took a sworn affidavit from the Indian Embassy in Dubai saying that the Dubai number to which the calls were made by Sanjay was indeed that of Dawood’s brother. The police also procured the Dubai telephone directory which mentioned the same number against Anees’s name. Only a few of the over 150 accused in the serial blasts case had been in touch with either Dawood or Anees while the blasts conspiracy was being hatched. Sanjay was one of them. All these records were handed over to the CBI. However, when the time came to pin Sanjay down in court, the CBI chose to omit the record related to the telephone calls in its final submission against Sanjay before the TADA court. The prosecution’s submission, a copy of which is with Tehelka, reveals that the CBI has not brought the telephone conversation-related evidence on record. Sources in the CBI said that since the court had not accepted the telephone records as evidence against Sanjay, they decided to delete them from their written submission. Maneshinde also revealed that the calls “have not come on record”.
In what appears to be a dilution, the CBI also failed to press the charge of destruction of evidence against Sanjay in their written submission. Initially, when the Mumbai Police filed the chargesheet, a copy of which is with Tehelka, they had slapped Sanjay with that charge. Nullwala, who destroyed the weapons on Sanjay’s instruction, has been convicted under the Arms Act. Commenting on the disparity, he told Tehelka, “This will always happen… this is nothing new… See this thing… politicians… they do every possible thing… nothing happens to them… Why? It comes in the paper… it comes on the idiot box every single day… but what happens… it’s always people like us, we have to suffer… you know, we are the example for the world…”
Despite the dilution in the CBI’s written submission, there was enough evidence on record. Abu Salem, Baba Mussa Chauhan and Magnum Video owner Samir Hingora — all of whom went to Sanjay’s house to deliver the consignment of arms — have each confirmed the following: one, that he was speaking to Anees when they arrived there; and two — and this is crucial — that Sanjay was eagerly awaiting their arrival. He personally supervised the consignment — aks, hand grenades and ammunition boxes — being taken out from the cavities of the Maruti van in which they had been concealed. He also provided the toolbox to prise out the arms from the places where they had been hidden. Before that, he asked the constable stationed at his mp father’s house to move away from his post. Abu Salem too was not unknown to Sanjay. Both Hingora and Chauhan describe how he “warmly hugged” Salem.
SANJAY HANDLED WITH KID GLOVES?
Faced with so much incontrovertible evidence, it can safely be said that Sanjay Dutt, son of an illustrious film personality and parliamentarian, was given special favours. First by a section of the Mumbai Police and later by the CBI which took over the investigation.
The Mumbai Police did not raid Sanjay’s house despite being told of the presence of a weapon on the premises, and thus let go of clinching evidence. Chauhan was the one who squealed on Sanjay when arrested. He told Rakesh Maria, “Why do you take on small guys like me when big and powerful people are involved?” This was on April 3, 1993, and Sanjay was in Mauritius. Maria sought permission to raid the Dutt house to recover the weapon, but was not given the go-ahead by the then Mumbai Police chief Samra.
A few days later, a story appeared in a local paper — attributed to police sources — that the cops had come to know about Sanjay being in possession of an AK-56 and some ammunition. Sanjay called up Nullwala from Mauritius and told him to collect the weapon and ammunition from his bedroom and destroy them. Accordingly, Nullwala collected one AK-56 rifle, two empty magazines, 250 rounds of ammunition and one 9mm pistol from the Dutt residence. He took the weapons to a friend, Karsi Bapuji Adajenia, who was in the steel fabrication business. Adajenia melted down the AK-56 with the help of a gas cutter. Nullwala threw the pieces into the sea in front of OberoiTowers, Nariman Point. Subsequently, the police recovered AK-56 cartridges from the boulders at Marine Drive. But, apart from its spring and rod, the melted-down remains of the AK-56 could never be recovered.
After his arrest, when Sanjay was repeatedly refused bail both by the TADA court and the Supreme Court, a quasi-judicial committee of bureaucrats and police officers, set up to review the status of TADA detainees, granted Sanjay bail. He came out after spending just 16 months in jail while others, such as those who delivered the arms to him, were behind bars for more than five years. Manzoor Ahmed and Baba Mussa Chauhan spent five years each in jail before they were let out on bail. Similarly, Hingora and Hanif Kadawala, who had shown Abu Salem the way to Sanjay’s house, were also denied bail for more than five years. While out on bail, Sanjay continued to remain in touch with Dawood Ibrahim’s gang members. The Mumbai Police recorded a telephone conversation between him and Dawood’s key lieutenant Chhota Shakeel in 2003. Sanjay and his friends were heard telling Shakeel to straighten up actor Govinda. Still, the police did not register an offence. Neither did the prosecution approach the court for the cancellation of Sanjay’s bail.
NOVEMBER 28, 2006: JUDGEMENT DAY
On November 28, 2006, at 12.40pm, Judge Kode called for Accused Number 117. Sanjay Dutt walked to the witness box. Sanjay faced several charges under TADA — for conspiring in the serial blasts of 1993, for aiding it, for being in possession of prohibited arms and for intending to use them to commit terror. He was also charged under the Arms Act for the possession of lethal weapons. One by one, Sanjay was absolved of all the charges levelled against him under various TADA sections. The judge said, “Considering the confession of the accused and other evidence, it is accepted that the arms were for self-defence. Hence (he is) not guilty for possession of arms under Section 5 of TADA.’’ Section 5 attracts five years to life imprisonment.
Kode further said, “The CBI was unable to establish that the arms that had reached Dutt’s house were from the cache of arms smuggled into India for the blasts.” Hence the judge acquitted the actor of the charge of aiding the blasts under Section 3(3) of TADA that also attracts five years to life imprisonment. The court had convicted Zaibunissa Kazi under the same section a while ago, but Sanjay was held guilty only under Sections 3 and 7 of the Arms Act. Sanjay and Maneshinde heaved a sigh of relief. Conviction under TADA would have meant immediate arrest. Conviction under the Arms Act allowed the court to give him time to surrender. It also allowed his lawyers to file for probation.
What happened in court on November 28 was scandalous. The verdict reeked of double standards, one for the privileged and another for the not-so-fortunate. But was what happened in court just a pre-meditated climax? Had the script been written long in advance? Kode said the CBI could not link the arms in Sanjay’s possession with those smuggled in for the blasts. The truth is the CBI never attempted to link them with the main consignment smuggled in for the serial blasts.
SEPARATION OF ABU SALEM’S TRIAL
On June 13, 2006, the TADA court accepted the CBI’s request to delink Abu Salem’s trial from the main blasts case. The reason offered by the CBI was that it did not want to delay the verdict any more. The delinking of the two cases worked to Sanjay Dutt’s advantage.
Salem is the main witness in the Sanjay case. His evidence completes the chain of circumstances leading to the delivery of arms to Sanjay. The supplementary chargesheet submitted by the CBI against Salem has a chronological description of how the arms and ammunition that landed at Dighi jetty in Raigad district on January 9, 1993, were further transported to Bharuch in Gujarat, from where nine AK-56 rifles, over 100 hand grenades, magazines and ammunition were then taken away by Salem in a white Maruti van to Bombay.
Salem later distributed these arms and explosives in Bombay at his master Anees Ibrahim’s directions. Salem’s chargesheet, a copy of which is with Tehelka, contains the statements of those who were at Dighi and transported the consignment to Bharuch. It also has the statement of the man in Bharuch who handed over the arms to Salem. And then there is Salem’s confession itself. All point to the same fact: the arms given to Sanjay were part of the consignment that the conspirators had smuggled in for the Bombay blasts.
The statements of those involved in transporting the truck loaded with arms to Bharuch and those who stored them there and subsequently handed a part of the consignment to Salem were never made a part of the case papers of the blasts trial. The CBI’s contention was that since the Gujarat Police had registered an offence vis-à-vis the transportation of arms from Dighi to Bharuch and their storage in a village there, they did not see it necessary to make it a part of the blasts trial.
The CBI recorded the statements of all those involved in the transportation and storage only after Salem was extradited from Portugal in November 2005. But the delinking of Salem’s case, again, kept these statements out of the main trial.
THE BLASTS CONSPIRACY: REVENGE FOR BABRI
After the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992, riots broke out in Bombay and other parts of India. In two rounds of communal violence in Bombay — over five days in 1992 (December 6 to 10) and 15 days in 1993 (January 6 to 20) — 575 Muslims and 275 Hindus died, according to the Srikrishna judicial commission of inquiry constituted by the government of Maharashtra. Dawood Ibrahim, in conjunction with the isi, made a plan to carry out simultaneous blasts in Bombay, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Calcutta and Delhi, says the report submitted by the Mumbai Police to the Union home ministry in 1993. Anticipating a fresh round of Hindu-Muslim riots in the aftermath of the blasts, Dawood wanted Muslims to be armed with assault rifles and hand grenades used otherwise by terrorists. Dawood, his brother Anees and three other smugglers — Tiger Memon, Mustafa Dosa and Mohammad Dosa — were the main conspirators. Dawood sent hundreds of young men from Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra to Pakistan for training in the use of arms and explosives. Till date, the police do not know the exact number of those who attended the isi-organised training camps. Dawood and Co then smuggled arms and explosives into the country and distributed them to Muslims in different places in Maharashtra and Gujarat. Hundreds of foot soldiers in Bombay and other places were commissioned and assigned specific tasks — handling the landing of arms and explosives, their subsequent transportation to different places in Maharashtra and Gujarat, the distribution to specific members of the gang, the assembling of bombs and the final act of planting them at strategic locations.
“Dawood Ibrahim exhorted us to rise in rebellion against Hindus… He said that Muslims were being butchered and women being dishonoured by Hindus in connivance with the police… He asked us to get ready to take revenge and told us that for this purpose he would send us to train in handling arms and explosives in Pakistan… to teach the Hindus a lesson by killing them and also by killing Indian leaders and senior police officers,” said Salim Mira Shaikh, alias Kutta, a gang member, in his confession before the police, narrating a meeting he and over a dozen other Muslim youths from Bombay had with Dawood in Dubai in February 1993.
THE ARMS CONSIGNMENTS LAND IN RAIGAD
Dawood smuggled hundreds of assault rifles, hand grenades, pistols, and hundreds of tonnes of rdx into India through January and February 1993. The first landing was on January 9, 1993, at Dighi jetty in Mahsla in Maharashtra’s Raigad district. Two more landings happened in Maharashtra — on the intervening night of February 2 and 3, and on February 9 at the Shekhadi coast in Mahsla. The consignment that finally reached the Dutt residence landed in Dighi.
The Dighi consignment contained AK-56 rifles, hand grenades, magazines and ammunition. While Mohammad Dosa and his brother Mustafa coordinated the landing at Dighi, Tiger Memon handled the two landings at Shekhadi. Salim Shaikh participated in the landing at Dighi. After the Gujarat Police arrested him in 1995, Shaikh gave the police a graphic description of the landing at Dighi.
Around 300 silver ingots, 20 military-colour canvas bags, 30 wooden boxes (each about three feet long, two feet wide and one foot deep) were unloaded from a launch at Dighi on the night of January 9, Shaikh said in his confession. Each canvas bag had four tin boxes, which had ammunition for assault rifles. Each wooden box had four AK-56 rifles and 12 empty magazines. A couple of boxes had hand grenades while their pins were in separate boxes. The goods were loaded in a truck and a tempo, and the vehicles proceeded toward a forested area. A police party intercepted the vehicles and allowed them to go only after mortgaging seven silver ingots against a promise of being paid Rs 8 lakh in cash. The vehicles then went into a jungle where two trucks with hidden cavities were already waiting. Silver was put in one truck while arms and ammunition were loaded into the other, whose registration number was mrl 1051. “Abdul Qayyum Sajjani, Amir Jadia alias Mota and Babu Madrasi took the truck mrl 1051 and left for Gujarat,” Shaikh told the police. A few remaining boxes of arms and explosives and silver ingots were put into a tempo and taken to the nearby Agarwaad village, where they were kept in the house of a gang member called Shabbir Qadri. The Mumbai Police later recovered the weapons from Qadri.
It was only after Salem’s extradition in 2005 that the CBI examined three witnesses who were involved in transporting that truck to Gujarat, storing the arms in Bharuch and subsequently distributing them to Salem and others. All this evidence has been made part of the Abu Salem chargesheet. Sajjani — a member of the Dawood gang, identified as Code No. 11 in the CBI chargesheet — says, “In January 1993, Mohammad Dosa told me to go to Raigad as some goods were supposed to land. I reached Bhiwandi with a few other of Dosa’s men. There we were given a truck which we took to the Goa road and from there to a jungle in Mahsla. While I waited in the jungle, the others left for the landing of the goods at Dighi jetty. Around midnight, Shabbir Qadri and others came with a few vehicles; silver, arms and explosives were unloaded from them. Boxes of arms and ammunition were hidden in my truck and I was told to leave for Nasik. On reaching Nasik, I called Mustafa Dosa at his Dubai number. He told me to proceed towards the Gujarat road. On reaching a hotel called Narmada in Bharuch, I called up Dosa again. He told me to wait for his man, Hazi Rafiq Kapadia of Bharuch. After some time, Kapadia came and we went to his village, Sansrod. There we packed 56 AK-56 rifles, over 200 hand grenades and boxes of cartridges and magazines into around 30 gunny bags, and then stored all the bags in Kapadia’s godown. I sent the truck back to Bombay and the next day I took the Gujarat express train back to Bombay.”
Kapadia, arrested by the Gujarat Police in 1995 and identified by the CBI as Code No. 4, says in his statement, “A day after I stored the arms in my godown, Mustafa Dosa called me from Dubai at around 11 or 12 in the morning and told me to go to Super guesthouse in Ankleshwar and meet some people. He gave me the number of a 100-rupee note. On reaching the guesthouse, a few people came to me and gave me a 100-rupee note with the same number. I took the keys of a Swaraj Mazda they had brought with them and took it to my village. There I loaded 46 AK-56 rifles, over 100 grenades, some boxes of cartridges and magazines into the vehicle. I handed over the vehicle to Dosa’s men who then left for Ahmedabad. A few days later, Dosa called me again and gave me a local telephone number in Bharuch. I called up that number and told the person who spoke to me to meet me at Hotel Nyayamandir on nh-8 at around 3 o’clock. Four men, all in the age group of 25-30, came in a white Maruti van with a Gujarat number. From there, we went to Hotel Safari. A fair man, whom the others addressed as Salem Bhai, asked two men to get off. Then the man named Salem Bhai, an accomplice of his whose name I do not know and I went to Sansrod village. We placed nine AK-56 rifles, over 100 grenades and some boxes of cartridges and magazines in hidden cavities in the flooring and four sides of the van.
We then went back to Hotel Safari and there Salem picked up his two other men and they left for Bombay. One AK-56, a few hand grenades and cartridges were still left with me and I dumped them in a street in Anklov after the serial blasts. I telephoned Gujarat Samachar about these abandoned weapons. The police came and seized them.”
Salem’s associate who accompanied him and Kapadia to Sansrod was Aziz Bilakhia, another Anees Ibrahim henchman in Bombay. Bilakhia, an accused in the serial blasts case, is still absconding. The CBI has also recorded the statement of a witness it has identified as Code No. 7, who was the owner of the godown in Bharuch where the arms and explosives were stored. Code No. 7 had let out his godown to Kapadia.
Sajjani, Kapadia and Code No. 7 were never made witnesses in the Bombay blasts case. The part of the story relating to the transportation of arms from Dighi to Bharuch, from where they were sent to Ahmedabad and Bombay, is missing from the case papers and the chargesheet of the Bombay blasts case. Judge Kode has given Sanjay the benefit of the same missing link in the chain. MN Singh questions the delinking of the trials on the excuse that it would have delayed the judgement. “I would have pushed for a joint trial,” he says, “because I think the case had already been delayed for far too long.” His argument is not without merit for the court would only have had to examine and cross-examine a total of 15 witnesses, which would have taken just another two to three months.
Salem’s testimony was crucial because he was the one who had been instructed by Anees to deliver the arms to Sanjay Dutt. The others — Samir Hingora and Baba Mussa Chauhan — who accompanied Salem to Sanjay’s house on the morning of January 16, 1993 — corroborate this fact. In his confession before the TADA court, Hingora, in fact, says, “On 15th of January 1993, two persons by the name of Baba Chauhan and Salem met me in my office and gave me the message that they had been directed by Anees Bhai to see me regarding handing some weapons to Sanjay Dutt. After about five minutes, Anees Bhai telephoned me from Dubai and told me that Baba Chauhan and Salem were his men.” When they reached Sanjay’s house, Hingora says he found him talking to Anees on the telephone and asking him when he was sending the weapons (samaan). Apart from shedding light on Sanjay’s proximity to Anees, Salem’s statement also proves that Sanjay was aware of the fact that arms and ammunition were being smuggled into the country. According to Hingora, Sanjay also asked Salem if the arms had arrived. The weapons were hidden in the cavities of the same van Salem brought from Bharuch.
JANUARY 16: THE WEAPONS ARE DELIVERED TO SANJAY
Of the nine AK-56s that were taken out of the cavities, Sanjay kept three aks, around 20 of the 100-odd hand grenades and some ammunition. Mussa Chauhan also took three AK-56s, 16 magazines, 25 hand grenades and 750 cartridges. The remaining three AK-56 rifles, hand grenades and ammunition were put back into the cavities of the car which Salem drove away in. Salem left the car with Bilakhia the same day.
On the evening of January 18, Hanif Kadawala, Abu Salem and his friend Manzoor Ahmed went to Sanjay’s house where he returned two AK-56s, hand grenades and ammunition to Salem. The arms and ammunition were returned in a black bag and a small carton. Kadawala left separately in his car, while Salem and Manzoor took the bag and the carton away in Manzoor’s blue Maruti 1000. They then drove to Zaibunissa Kazi’s house in Bandra and left the arms there.
The crucial point of this entire sequence centres around the undeniable fact that Sanjay had also kept hand grenades. The fact — corroborated by Hingora, Chauhan, Salem and Kadawala but omitted by Sanjay in his own confession — has not been accounted for in court. On the day of the verbal order on November 28 last year, the judge said that he accepted Sanjay’s admission that he had kept the AK-56 for self-protection because he was getting threatening calls during the Bombay riots. But the mere possession of a prohibited weapon in a notified area like Bombay is an offence under Section 5 of TADA. Besides, stocking hand grenades and an assault rifle for self-protection defies logic. Says MN Singh, “Really speaking, that explanation doesn’t convince me. It doesn’t cut any ice. One doesn’t go running for help to gangsters for self-protection. There are governmental agencies to fall back on.” Singh has a point, for Sanjay already had three licenced weapons before he called Anees for the AK-56s. Besides, it is not difficult for the son of an eminent mp to seek help from governmental agencies.
Lawyers are already questioning the “benign judicial eye” cast on Sanjay Dutt — and they are not the only ones. The families of the co-accused have also protested outside the TADA court, asking that their relatives be treated the same way as Sanjay. Acutely conscious of the disparity is Maneshinde himself — he says he will have no answer to give to the Supreme Court if he is asked why Sanjay received such different treatment from the others.
Answers are difficult because on the Black Friday of March 12, 1993, India suffered what was then its worst terrorist attack. Within a few hours, 257 people were reduced to a heap of mangled limbs and charred torsos. Meanwhile, justice is still awaited.