Indian star gets 6 years on gun charge

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NEW DELHI -- Well-known Indian actor Sanjay Dutt was sentenced to six years in jail Tuesday by a special anti-terrorism court in Mumbai for illegally possessing guns that he received from plotters of the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts that killed 257 people.

Dutt served 16 months in 1995 before being released on bail. At that point, the case against him went into hearing under the Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act.

Though the court had cleared Dutt of terrorism charges in an earlier ruling, judge Pramod Kode said Tuesday that, even though he was not sure Dutt had the guns to commit a terrorist act, merely having them "shows scant respect to the law."

Dutt has three major upcoming films under production that, according to trade estimates, could cost producers a total of $25 million (1 billion rupees). These include "Mr. Fraud," "Alibaug" and "Kidnap."

"The whole industry is in a state of shock at this judgment," Mumbai-based film analyst Taran Adarsh said. "Nobody was expecting this considering that Dutt's career has been riding high."

"Amongst his projects, the only film ready for release is the comedy 'Dhamaal' (Impact) due in September," Adarsh said.

Though known for his action-oriented roles in his three-decade career, Dutt became even more successful as a comedy actor beginning with 2003's runaway hit "Munnabhai MBBS. Directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, the film saw Dutt play a gangster who masquerades as a doctor to impress his father. He reprised the role in the smash hit 2006 sequel "Lage Raho Munnabhai" (Keep Going Munnabhai).

Before being sent to custody, Dutt asked the court for time to meet with his New York-based daughter Trishala, who had come to Mumbai for the hearing.

Media coverage was intense, with most news channels offering live feeds from outside the court. "Given that this is a major event, we will give it prominence for most of the day," said a spokesperson at Mumbai-based Hindi news outlet STAR News, part of News Corp.'s STAR network.
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