NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt was sentenced to five years jail by India’s Supreme Court on Thursday for possession of illegal weapons in a long-running case linked to the 1993 Mumbai bombings.
Dutt, 53, popular for his role as a do-good gangster in the “Munnabhai” films, was sentenced to six years prison in 2007 for acquiring illegal weapons from the men convicted for the Mumbai attacks that killed 257 people.
But he appealed against the sentence and was released on bail, pending a further hearing.
The court on Thursday rejected Dutt’s final appeal and ordered him to return to custody in four weeks time.
Dutt, one of Bollywood’s biggest stars, said he was “shattered and in emotional distress” as he had suffered for 20 years and already spent 18 months in prison.
“I am heartbroken because today along with me, my 3 children and my wife and my family will undergo the punishment,” Dutt said in a statement.
“I know in my heart that I have always been a good human being, respected the system and always been loyal to my country.”
His lawyer Satish Maneshinde told reporters that the length of sentence had come as a shock to Dutt who has continued to make a long list of films despite the legal action against him.
“We will wait for a copy of the Supreme Court judgment and then decide the further course of action. He is a strong man and will fight back,” he said, adding that his client would need to serve 3.5 years as he had already been in jail for 18 months.
In 2007, the actor was cleared of conspiracy charges in the Mumbai serial blasts but was found guilty of illegal possession of an AK-56 rifle and a pistol and sentenced to six years.
During his trial he claimed the weapons were to protect him and his family during a period of rioting in Mumbai.
Dutt was the most high-profile of 100 people involved in the Mumbai bombings trial which ended with 12 people receiving the death penalty and 20 others given life sentences.
The entertainment industry reacted with shock to news of Dutt’s sentencing with the actor seen by some fans as a victim of his star lineage and own fame.
“It is a big blow. He was a prominent actor and a father figure to many in the industry,” said Bollywood trade analyst Amod Mehra. “There are 250 crore ($46 million) riding on him.”
Dutt, the son of actor and former Congress minister Sunil Dutt and actress Nargis, also has political ambitions.
But in 2009, the Supreme Court refused to suspend his conviction so that he could contest the national elections on a ticket for the Samajwadi Party, a democratic socialist party.
Dutt said in his statement that he was going to complete all his films and not let anyone down.
The actor is currently shooting for a new film “Policegiri” and was due to reprise his role in a third “Munnabhai” film later this year.
Reporting by India online team; Editing by Tony Tharakan and Belinda Goldsmith