India court rejects Bollywood star Sanjay's jail plea

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's highest court on Friday rejected a plea by Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt to review his conviction and five-year jail term for possessing arms supplied by plotters of the deadly 1993 Mumbai blasts.

The muscular, tattooed 53-year-old was convicted by an anti-terrorism court in 2006 but was freed on bail after serving 18 months in prison.

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

The supreme court on Friday said there was "no merit" in the actor's petition to review his conviction and also dismissed similar requests by six others sentenced in the case.

Dutt was convicted for possessing arms supplied by Mumbai's criminal underworld which plotted a string of deadly blasts in 1993, killing 257 people.

Dutt still can file another so-called "curative" petition in which the court is asked to review its final decision but lawyers said such a plea would likely be dismissed as it would be heard by the same judges.

Dutt was likely to surrender to jail authorities on May 15, according to local media.

The actor, whose mother was Muslim and father a Hindu, was acquitted in 2007 of more serious conspiracy charges in the blasts seen as retaliation for religious riots in which mainly Muslims died after the razing of an old mosque.

Despite the acquittal, Dutt was found guilty of possession of an automatic rifle and a pistol, which he insisted were only meant to protect his family amid the highly charged atmosphere in Mumbai following the mosque's destruction.

Analysts estimate about 2.5 billion rupees (S$56.8 million) are riding in Bollywood on Dutt, whose parents were two of India's biggest stars, and who has up to five films in the pipeline.

At a news conference following the March hearing, Dutt declared himself "a shattered man".

Some prominent figures had called for the actor to be pardoned, including the Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju, a former supreme court judge.

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.

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.

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