Sanjay Dutt to go to jail after court rejects plea

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt is set to go to jail this week after India's top court on Tuesday dismissed his last-ditch plea for a review of a five-year sentence related to the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts.

The muscular, tattooed 53-year-old was convicted by an anti-terrorism court in 2006 of possessing arms supplied by the plotters of the deadly bomb attacks, but was freed on bail after serving 18 months in prison.

In March this year, the Supreme Court upheld his conviction but cut his jail term to five years from six. He now must serve the remaining three-and-a-half-years of his term.

A Supreme Court bench on Tuesday refused to hear the plea of a film producer who sought more time for Dutt to surrender so that he can complete two films that are still being shot.

The court's decision meant Dutt must surrender to authorities on Thursday to serve the rest of his sentence.

Analysts estimate about 2.5 billion rupees (S$56.5 million) is riding in Bollywood on Dutt, whose parents were two of India's biggest stars. He has some five films in the pipeline that cannot be completed before he goes to prison.

The court's decision came on a day when full-page advertisements appeared in Indian newspapers showing a smiling Dutt dressed in a police uniform for one of his soon-to-be-released movies.

The actor shot to fame in the 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 "Munnabhai" series.

The actor, whose mother was Muslim and father Hindu, was acquitted in 2007 of more serious conspiracy charges in the blasts that killed 257 people.

The attacks were seen as retaliation for religious riots in which mainly Muslims died after the razing of an old mosque at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh state.

Dutt's first wife died of cancer while his second marriage, to a model, ended in divorce. He wed for a third time in 2008 and has two young children.

At a news conference following the March hearing, Dutt declared himself "a shattered man" and some prominent figures have called for the actor to be pardoned.