A top Bollywood movie star has been found guilty of involvement in deadly
serial bomb blasts that rocked India's financial capital, Mumbai, 13 years ago. As Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, Sanjay Dutt was convicted of arms possession but cleared of charges of terrorism in relation to the blasts.
The verdict was handed down Tuesday by the judge in a packed courtroom in Mumbai to a somber-looking Sanjay Dutt. And in a country that is transfixed by India's movie industry, known as Bollywood, millions watched the star's fate.
The judge ruled the popular 47-year-old actor guilty of illegally possessing arms supplied by the men who carried out serial bomb blasts that targeted Mumbai's stock exchange and commercial buildings in 1993.
But he acquitted Dutt of the more serious charge of conspiracy, saying "I have not found him to be a terrorist."
More than 250 people died in India's worst terrorist attacks, considered to be acts of revenge for religious riots that killed hundreds of Muslims.
One hundred and twenty-three people have been charged in the case, so far 86 have been found guilty. All of them, including Sanjay Dutt, will be sentenced later.
Dutt's offense could result in a three-year sentence but the popular action hero has already spent nearly 18 months in prison during the investigation. The verdict comes at a time when the actor is riding a wave of success after a recent film turned out to be a huge hit.
Former Chief Minister of Maharashtra state, Manohar Joshi said the verdict shows that everyone is equal before the law.
Joshi says anyone who is found guilty must be punished, and the verdict should not surprise anyone.
Dutt's involvement in the serial blasts case is not the first controversy faced by the son of one of India's most famous superstar couples, Sunil Dutt and Nargis. He has fought drug addiction, had a bad marriage, and been involved in a bitter custody battle for his daughter, but emerged from it all, Bollywood style, to become a top star.
Indeed there has been a wave of sympathy across the Indian movie industry for Dutt, with Bollywood expressing relief that he has been cleared of charges of involvement in terrorism.
"He has become a much stronger person," said Arshad Warsi, who starred with Dutt in a recent film, about the actor. "He kept saying, I wish this gets over. And I can totally understand this sentiment. Thirteen years is a very long time to go through this sort of life. He will come back, he will be bigger and stronger."
The trial involving Dutt has turned into one of India's marathon criminal trials, and prompted calls for faster delivery of verdicts. Twelve of the accused in the case have died, while others have languished in jail for many years.