Sanjay Dutt - The TADA Case

Finally free! Sanjay Dutt, February 25, 2016

For 23 years, Sanjay Dutt was not a free man. For nearly fourteen years, he had to live under suspicion to have been involved in the Mumbai bomb blasts of 1993 until on November 28, 2006 he finally was acquitted from all terror and conspiracy charges. Nevertheless, he was found guilty of illegal possession of arms and, on July 31, 2007, sentenced to six years rigorous imprisonment under Arms Act (not under TADA). The sentence was reduced to five years by the Supreme Court on March 21, 2013 and Sanjay served his remaining term (he had already been held for 18 months as an undertrial) in Yerawada Jail until February 25, 2016.

I have tried to give a full summary of the facts and the trial, followed by documents, reports, commentaries and interviews around the case and the verdict.

Summary of the facts, the events and the trial

On December 6, 1992, radical Hindus destroyed the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya which in the 16th century had been built upon the ruins of a destroyed Hindu temple. After that, riots and encroachments between Muslims and Hindus broke out in the whole of India, claiming thousands of (mostly Muslim) lives. The riots lasted till January 1993 and, especially in Bombay, took on terrible scales. Sanjay's father Sunil Dutt organized help for the victims, irrespectively of their origin or religion, and Sanjay helped him, saving victims from the streets and taking them to hospitals. As both of them were Hindus and most of the victims were Muslims, radical Hindus abused them as pro-muslim, and especially Sunil was attacked several times; once an angry mob attacked his car, and he had a narrow escape. The Dutt family got many telephone calls of radicals, threatening of raping Sanjay's sisters, killing all male family members and burning down the house. Sunil wrote to the police, told them about the threats and asked for protection, even Sanjay contacted the police, but they got no help - not even after another concrete threat call, and hadn't Sanjay that evening met a befriended army officer who willingly agreed to protect the Dutt residence together with his troupe until sunrise then God knows what might have happened.

When Sanjay told Hanif Kadewalla and Samir Hingora, two film producers who at that time made Sanam with him, about his fear for his family, Hanif and Samir offered him to provide him with an automatic weapon with which he could protect his family in a case of emergency. First Sanjay doubted, but after more encouragement by the producers he finally agreed. On January 15, 1993, an AK-56 plus ammunition was delivered to him. He even was offered more rifles plus hand grenades but he refused them and just kept the one rifle he wanted for self protection. He also insisted that the rifle should be taken back as soon as he no longer needed it, and the deliverer agreed to that. But when shortly thereafter the riots calmed down, Sanjay's pleas to Hanif and Samir arrange for the rifle's collection were in vain, and even when he refused to continue shooting for Sanam, they did not fulfill the agreement, so Sanjay (who didn't know any weapon trader and had no chance to get rid off the rifle by himself) was forced to keep the rifle.

On March 12, 1993 (later called "Black Friday"), a Muslim terror group sought bloody revenge for the destroyed mosque and the Muslim riot victims. The "Mumbai bomb blasts", a series of twelve bomb attacks in Bombay, killed 257 people and injured 713. A hectic search for the offenders and their complices started which sometimes resembled a witch-hunting. Sanjay was shooting on Mauritius for Aatish when he came to know that the police had interrogated Hanif and Samir and thus had come to know about the AK-56 in his house. In panic, he called his friend Yusuf Nullwala and asked him to take the rifle from his house and to destroy it. Yusuf took two other friends and did so, but later the police found rests of the weapon. Sanjay himself was ready to clear the table, returned from Mauritius on April 19 and even announced the time of his arrival at Mumbai Sahar Airport (something a terrorist who didn't want to get caught hardly would have made). He was prepared for an interrogation but not that he would be arrested right at the airport and booked under the TADA Act (Terror And Disruptive Activities). As he was assured that he would be charged only under the Arms Act and also get bail at once if he confessed, he made an extensive confession on April 28, making it a point that he kept the weapon just for self defence and for protection of his family. But as the weapon was not found in his house, it was supposed that he withheld important information, and he remained in custody. His lawyers moved the High Court that Sanjay was wrongly held under TADA and applied for bail which was granted on May 5. Sanjay was released from prison.

But Sunil Dutt's politic rivals sniffed a unique chance: A Sanjay booked under TADA would be an invaluable dead pledge against Sunil's political activities (Sunil's popularity made winning parliament elections very easy for him). In the following months Sanjay's name again and again was mentioned in connection with the terroristic conspiracy. Rumours said that he provided his garage as a weapon reloading point for the terrorists, and when the police published that phone calls to Dubai had been made from the Dutt residence the case seemed perfectly clear. (Nobody bothered to ask who had made the calls - any visitor could have made them - or what had been talked about.) To add to all that, the Special Judge Patel proved to be biased, in an extend that the team of lawyers representing a great number of accused, among them Sanjay, withdrew from the case in this critical moment as they saw no chance for their clients to get a fair trial. In that critical phase, the authorities demanded Sanjay's rearrest. On July 4, 1994, Sanjay's bail was cancelled and he was taken to Arthur Road Prison again.

Every attempt in the following months to get bail again was rejected. The authorities obviously were decided to frame Sanjay making him a part of the terroristic conspiracy, especially as this prominent and headline-filling "accused no. 1" proved to be a case of luck for them: Nobody talked anymore about the lapses which had allowed the string-pullers of the bomb blasts to escape abroad. Who would ask for the true culprits when superstar Sanjay Dutt proved to be a "terrorist"? On his lawyers' advice, Sanjay withdrew his confession on November 9/20, 1994, to eliminate the basis for the terrorism charges so there would be chance for him to get bail again. But in vain. On September 11, 1995, after fourteen endless months in jail, his plea for bail was rejected again. The actor and politician Shatrughan Sinha, though even him belonging to Sunil Dutt's rival party BJP, did his best in parliament to help Sanjay because he believed in his innocence. But only when Sunil Dutt pleaded with his mightiest political rival Bal Thackeray, chief of the then ruling party Shiv Sena, Thackeray championed for Sanjay and wrote to the Supreme Court. A letter from Sanjay to the prison authorities was generously reinterpreted into a petition for mercy and for bail. On October 16, 1993, the Supreme Court decided that, as the TADA Act required evidences for the culprits' intentions, Sanjay's confession would not be enough to keep him in detention as long as the CBI provided no other evidence against Sanjay, and therefore he was granted bail. On October 17, 1995, after a total of sixteen months imprisonment on remand, Sanjay finally was allowed to leave the Arthur Road Prison.

Sanjay Dutt after his release on bail
on October 17, 1993

But he was far away from being free. His life was from now on ruled and regulated by the bail rules. In the first four years after his release he had to spend all days in court from 9 am to 5 pm so mostly he worked at nights. For every shooting at daytime he had to ask the court's permission. Later these court attemdances were reduced to once every ten days, and from 1999 he principally even was allowed to go abroad again. But for every schedule outside of Mumbai, for every visit to his dying wife and his little daughter in the USA, for nearly every decision he made since then he had to ask the court's permission which, by the way, not always was granted which made Sanjay's life even more complicated. Moreover, he was a marked man with a terrorist stigma which had extremely humiliating consequences for him everytime he flew to Canada or the USA for shooting. Not only that these countries' authorities always required a special approbation for him, he also always was interrogated for hours at the airport. The media did one last thing - while shooting for Sinha's Dus in Canada the media threw so much dirt onto the "terrorist" Sanjay Dutt that he finally couldn't bear it any longer and returned to India ahead of schedule. (And none of his colleagues accused him of unprofessionalism - they knew him too well - but showed full understanding for him.)

At least since 1996, the disputed Judge Patel had been removed and replaced by Judge Pramod Dattaram Kode whose way of leading the trial was fair, strict, but also human and, when appropriate, clement. Because of the multitude of accued (123 - Sanjay was no. 117), the trial took nearly fourteen years, and only in September 2006, Judge Kode finally started pronouncing the verdicts. In the following weeks, thousands of people all over India were praying for Sanjay in temples, mosques and churches, pleading for his acquittance. In their opinion he was innocent, not because he was a star, but: he had had the wapon only for self defence; he hadn't (as often stated) bought but only acquired it, and it was agreed that it was to be taken back; he had never used it; he obviously had no personal contact to weapon traders, otherwise he would not have been dependant on other people to take away the rifle; he was a Hindu and son to the pacifistic nationalist Sunil Dutt and, together with him, had helped the victims during the riots; he had had no motive at all to join a muslimic conspiracy; he had returned from Mauritius out of his free will when targeted by the police; and in all the years after his release an bail he never gave the court reason to claim about his conduct. More of that, he had stayed in India having full faith in God and his country's judiciary, though he would have had the resources and the possibilities to leave the country. But instead he had chosen to stay in his country and to stand the fourteen-year-long nightmare, which was prove enough for the people: Sanjay was innocent, he had no reason to accuse himself.

On November 28, 2006, Sanjay finally was acquitted from all TADA charges. Judge Kode had accepted Sanjay's confession from April 28, 1993, and clearly stated that he did not find Sanjay to be a terrorist but believed him to have acquired the rifle for self-defence. However, he found Sanjay guilty of illegal possession of the AK-56 and of a pistol which Sanjay had bought earlier (which he also had confessed) under Arms Act and on July 31, 2007, he sentenced him to six years rigorous imprisonment. Sanjay's plea to get probation on the basis of his good conduct was rejected. He started serving his term as prisoner no. 15170 in Yerawada Central Jail, Pune - the same prison where once Mahatma Gandhi served a six-years' term - until on August 20, he was granted interim bail by the Supreme Court after Sanjay has challenged his conviction and was not yet given a copy of his judgement which he needed for this purpose. The interim bail ended on October 22 when Sanjay was given his copy of his judgement by the TADA court and was taken back to Yerawada Central Jail again. On November 27, the Supreme Court granted Sanjay regular bail (two days later he could walk free from the prison) so that he can await his appeal hearings in freedom. At least in March 2010, the CBI decided not to challenge Sanjay's TADA acquittal so he is now definitely free of all terror charges. In summer 2012, the hearings for his challenge took place at the SC.
On March 21, 2013 the Supreme Court reduced the verdict to five years imprisonment. From May 16, 2013 on, Sanjay served the remaining term of his imprisonment. After the first week in Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai he was shifted to Yerwada Central Prison in Pune (Qaidi No. 16656) where he made paper bags and worked as an RJ and producer at the Yerawada Central Prison's radio station. According to the prison manual he was granted remission for good conduct and finally walked free on February 25, 2016.

Sanjay Dutt salutes the Indian flag after leaving
Yerawada Jail on February 25, 2016


"Sanjay Dutt always maintained decorum in the court. He was most humble before the court. During the course of trial, a section of the media referred to him as a ‘terrorist’. So, he had requested to the court that while deciding on the case, the court should also decide on this aspect, and clarify whether he is a terrorist. He expressed to the court that being labelled a terrorist was a stigma to him and to the family from which he had descended. After assessing the evidence, no guilt could be proved regarding his involvement in terrorist act, and he was found to be guilty only for offences under the Arms Act. It was thus clarified that he wasn’t a terrorist." (Justice Pramod Dattaram Kode, March 2015)

Documents, Reports, Commentaries and Interviews

Sanjay Dutt in the documentation To Hell And Back
about his arrest after the Bomb Blasts, 1996

"I have always maintained that Sanjay Dutt should not be spared because he is Sanjay Dutt. At the same time he should not be hanged because he is Sanjay Dutt, or because he is Sunil Dutt's son." (Shatrughan Sinha, 8/1995)

Sanjay's imprisonment on remand (1993-1995)

Filmfare, June 1993: Sanjay Dutt - all for a gun
Link 1 -
Link 2 - Link 3 - Link 4 - Link 5 - Link 6 - Link 7 - Link 8 - Link 9 - Link 10 - Link 11 - Link 12 - Link 13 - Link 14 - Link 15 - Link 16 - Link 17 - Link 18 - Link 19 - Link 20 - Link 21

Stardust, June 1993: "We have seen their true colours!" The anger and the anguish
Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3 - Link 4 - Link 5 - Link 6

Ciné-Blitz, June 1993: The Sanjay Scandal
Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3 - Link 4 - Link 5 - Link 6 - Link 7 - Link 8 - Link 9 - Link 10 - Link 11 - Link 12 - Link 13

Filmfare, June 1994: Accused! The complete Sanjay Dutt story
- Sanjay's confession (April 28, 1993): Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3 - Link 4
- Hanif Kadewala and Samir Hingora: Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3
- Sunil Dutt: Link 1 - Link 2
- S.B. Jaisinghani: Link 1 - Link 2
- M.N. Singh: Link 1 - Link 2
(Please read also Shatrughan Sinha's reaction to M.N. Singh's comments in his open letter, Filmfare 8/1994)

Filmfare, August 1994:
- What next? The film industry's reaction to Sanjay's re-arrest: Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3
- Shatrughan Sinha's open letter: Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3 - Link 4 - Link 5

Rashtriya Sahara, October 1994: Unlawful Law! The rampant abuse of TADA calls for serious rethinking
Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3 - Link 4 - Link 5

Sanjay's letter to Priya Dutt (Thane Jail, October 29, 1994)

Filmfare, December 1994: High Anxiety

Movie, December 1994: Love knows no bars
Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3

Stardust, December 1994: Is Sanjay Dutt cracking under pressure?
Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3 - Link 4 - Link 5 - Link 6 - Link 7

Showtime, December 1994: Breaking Point - Will Sanjay survive the ordeal?
Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3 - Link 4 - Link 5 - Link 6 - Link 7 - Link 8

Movie, March 1995: Sanjay's cellmate Pyara Singh on Sanju's traumatic days in prison
Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3 - Link 4 - Link 5

Stardust, May 1995: Stardust meets Sanjay Dutt!
Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3 - Link 4

Showtime, May 1995: Scarred for life - The agony and the ecstasy of being Sanjay Dutt
Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3 - Link 4 - Link 5 - Link 6

Savvy, June 1995: Nothing lasts forever. Namrata about her brother Sanjay
Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3

Stardust, August 1995: "I am not a terrorist!" Sanjay Dutt's explosive letter from Arthur Road Prison
Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3 - Link 4 - Link 5 - Link 6 - Link 7

Stardust, August 1995: Shatrughan Sinha - Shooting from the lip (excerpts)
Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3 - Link 4 - Link 5

Stardust, September 1995: These are a few of my favourite things!
Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3

"You won't believe how much I've learnt. And you won't believe the strength I've built up. After this, what can be worse? It's made an optimist out of me. I've learnt that it's always darkest before dawn. And that every cloud has a silver lining. I've also learnt never to take anything in life for granted and to be a good human being first and foremost. Everything else is secondary. Believe me, when I get out there again, it'll still be the same old world, but my perception of it has changed." (Sanjay Dutt, 1995 while still in prison; quoted in: Stardust 11/1995)

Sanjay Dutt after his release on bail in 1995

Sanjay's release from prison on October 17, 1995

Movie, November 1995: Sanjay Dutt returns
Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3 - Link 4 - Link 5

Filmfare, November 1995: Sanjay Dutt released!
Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3

Stardust, November 1995: After 470 days of tears, trauma and turmoil: Sanju gets his freedom!
Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3 - Link 4

Showtime, November 1995: Megastar Sanjay returns - Freedom!
Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3 - Link 4 - Link 5 - Link 6 - Link 7

Rashtriya Sahara, November 1995: The Sanjay Saga
Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3 - Link 4 - Link 5 - Link 6 - Link 7

g Junior, November 1995: Sanjay Dutt - Homecoming
Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3 - Link 4 - Link 5 - Link 6 - Link 7 - Link 8 - Link 9 - Link 10 -
Link 11 - Link 12 - Link 13 - Link 14 - Link 15 - Link 16 - Link 17 - Link 18

Sanjay Dutt at a court hearing, 2006

"I was once stopped at the immigration counter in London and Scotland Yard officers interrogated me for an hour. I've been stopped at immigration in Australia too. When 9/11 happened, I was in the US shooting for Kaante and two CIA agents came to meet me. It's very embarrassing because I'm not a terrorist. Please, I'm in no way responsible for the Mumbai bomb blasts. Killing innocent people isn't right. I can't believe I've been accused of such a heinous crime." (Sanjay Dutt, Filmfare 3/2003)

Stardust, February 2002: "I am innocent..." Court(ing) Sanjay Dutt
Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3 - Link 4 - Link 5 - Link 6 - Link 7

Society, September 2004: Canada's unwanted guest: Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3

The TADA acquittance and the Arms Act verdict (November 28, 2006)

Reactions after Judge P.D. Kode's verdict

Interview with Priya Dutt

Interview with Rhea Pillai
Filmfare 1/2007: Out of the shadows

Fans praying on November 29, 2006
after Sanjay's TADA acquittance

During the sentences (May 18 to July 31, 2007)

In June 2007, Sanjay gave an exclusive interview to NDTV which was aired, on June 13, 2007, in a special show "Trial On Fire".

On June 20, Suniel Shetty wished his friend in the Times of India a scot-free life: "I know he deserves it."

And even from Germany came words of support for Sanjay ("We're there with you, Sanju!")...

Sanjay Dutt and his sisters Priya (left) und Anju
before his verdict on July 31, 2007

The sentence (July 31, 2007)

"Even the soul of Mahatma Gandhi would have wanted Sanjay to be freed." (Bal Thackeray)

Reactions by Sanjay's lawyers and colleagues:
Link 1 - Link 2 -
Link 3 - Link 4 - Link 5 - Link 6 - Link 7 - Link 8 - Link 9

Union Information and Broadcasting Minister PR Dasmunsi
Interview with Rhea Pillai
Bollywood cries

Priya Dutt's press release:
I on behalf of the Dutt family would like to thank all the people who have shown their overwhelming support for our brother Sanjay. It has come as a great pillar of strength in this hour of need. However, as sad as it is, we must realize that as on date, Sanjay has been convicted. The family although greatly saddened by the judgment has accepted it with a heavy heart. We have full faith in the judicial system of our country and are currently pursuing all legal remedies available to him. We humbly request you as his supporters to pray for us from your heart and mind and let the Law take it on course.
Priya Dutt, New Delhi, August 6, 2007

In an impassionate plea Hargopal Singh contended why the sentence in his opinion means a massive injustice to Sanjay Dutt.
(I completely agree with him and just added a few facts...)

And Rama Kant Mishra too provides some excellent arguements why Munnabhai deserves leniency - not just because "it is his celebrity status which tempted even the law to go for the overkill - sentencing a terrorist, a killer or even a corrupt politician will not earn as much popularity as sentencing Sanjay Dutt"...

Petitions for Sanjay Dutt

As spontaneous reactions to the verdict widely considered as too harsh, several online petitions were started supporting Sanjay and pleading for a more lenient verdict:

AsianOutlook Forum
Free Sanjay Dutt

Some doctors in Pune have chosen the Munnabhai way instead of protest marches, and practice Gandhigiri. They offer a discussion forum about Sanjay and the verdict, and they are planning to go to Delhi - with roses for the Supreme Court lawyers...
Gandhigiri zindabad! Sanjay Dutt zindabad!

Sanjay's appeal and bail

On August 7, 2007 Sanjay challenged his conviction in the Supreme Court.

On August 20, 2007 Sanjay was granted interim bail by the Supreme Court. As it took the authorities two days for the proceedings, he could leave Yerawada Prison only on thursday, August 23.

Comments by members of the industry
Pictures of the release on August 23, 2007
Sanjay's thanks to his supporters

Sanjay Dutt after his release on interim bail
on August 23, 2007

Sanjay's and Priya's heartfelt thanks:
Sanjay: "In all humility, I thank all those who prayed for me during this period of my life. I thank all those who stood by me and my family and supported us so firmly. I also thank all my fans in Pune who stood outside the jail waiting for me. I'm sorry I could not meet you all but thank you for your prayers. I was overwhelmed by your love. I could hear you when I was inside the jail, and your love kept me strong. I intend spending this brief period while I'm on bail working on my case with my lawyers. I have full faith in the judicial system. I respect the law and will abide with it. I once again like to thank the film industry, all my colleagues and friends for their support. I particularly thank my family for their unconditional and unending love and support."

Priya: "On behalf of my family, we are thankful for this temporary relief that we have got. We are relieved to have our brother back home. We will always love and support him in any way we can. We thank everyone for his or her support and prayers. We have full faith in the judicial system and we are confident justice will be served."

Filmfare, October 1, 2007: A cry in the dark
Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3 - Link 4

On October 22, 2007 the interim bail ended when Sanjay was given his judgement copy by the TADA court (in which Judge Kode clearly explained why Sanjay was acquitted from the TADA charges). He was taken back to Yerawada Central Jail the same day, where he as a "high profile convict" lived separated from the other inmates. On October 25, 2007 his lawyers approached the Supreme Court for regular bail. (Commentary 1 - 2 - 3)

On November 27, 2007 the Supreme Court granted Sanjay regular bail, and on November 29 (1 year and 1 day after his TADA acquittance) he walked free from Yerawada Central Prison. He will now be able to await his appeal hearings in freedom.

Sanjay Dutt coming home
on November 29, 2007

Reports about Sanjay's release, his coming home and his thanks to his family and fans
Two short videos
Comments of Sanjay's friends and colleagues

March 2010: The CBI decided not to challenge Sanjay's TADA acquittal.

March 21, 2013: The Supreme Court sentenced Sanjay to five years imprisonment.

Sanjay Dutt:
"I have already suffered for 20 years and been in jail for 18 months. If they want me to suffer more I have to be strong. I am heart broken because today along with me, my 3 children and my wife and my family will undergo the punishment. I have always respected the judicial system and will continue to do so, even with tears in my eyes. I am going to complete all my films and won't let anyone down. I am overwhelmed by the support of my fans, the industry people, the media and all the well wishers. They have always stood by me and supported me. I know in my heart that I have always been a good human being. My family is very emotional right now and I have to be strong for them. I am shattered and in emotional distress. I am sorry I can't come down and meet you all. God is great and he will guide me through this." (March 21, 2013)

On March 28, 2013 Sanjay declared in public that he won't appeal for pardon.

How Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt spent his time in jail

Sanjay's release

On February 25, 2016 Sanjay finally walked free.

The family reunited at the press conference at Imperial Heights

Sanjay at the press conference outside his home:
"After 23 years of struggle, I have got my freedom today. Still haven’t come to terms that I’ve been released. / Wish my father was present today to share this day with me. Proud to be an Indian, was born here and will die here. My father’s only fight was to see his son free. My biggest relief was when court said ‘you are not a terrorist’. Miss my father who longed to hear this all his life. / Didn’t sleep last night, haven’t eaten in 4 days. I had tea when I came back home. / My wife Manyata suffered more than me. Manyata is my best half. She has been my pillar of strength throughout, even at times when I have been weak. / Looking forward to spend time with family and getting back to work. / Salman Khan is like a younger brother to me and he will always be. I pray that he finds more success in life and becomes a bigger star. / I am not a terrorist, don’t have TADA charges on me. Request the press to not mention my name in 1993 Bombay bomb blasts case."

Video: Sanjay Dutt's speech at the press conference

Sanjay's family's welcome at home

"Freedom is a prayer; I have experienced what it is like to not be free" - Sanjay Dutt at the India Today Conclave, March 18, 2016


To Hell And Back (TV Documentary, 1996)
Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

ZoomTV: Bollywood Case Files - Sanjay Dutt (2008)
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6

Shot In Bombay (Documentary, 2007)
While the TADA trial approached its end in 2006, Sanjay was shooting for Shootout At Lokhandwala. Liz Mermin's documentary film Shot In Bombay shows the film shooting in combination with Sanjay's legal hassles (excerpt; review).

Masala (2012): It was a controversy that shocked the industry

Stardust 9/1995


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