India's Supreme Court is due to hear a plea by Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt seeking more time before he returns to prison for his conviction over the 1993 Mumbai blasts. Last month the judges ordered Dutt to surrender by 18 April after reducing his sentence to five years from six. On Monday the star asked the court for more time to hand himself in, citing work commitments. Dutt was convicted in 2006 of buying weapons from the bombers. He spent 20 months in jail.
The serial bombings killed 257 people and wounded 713 others. Dutt, 53, has urged the court to allow him to finish work on a number of films before returning to prison. Reports say the actor had told the court that it would take at least six months to complete the films. Dutt, one of Bollywood's most bankable stars, is hugely popular for his role as a loveable gangster in the Munnabhai movies. He has also dabbled in politics. In 2006, a special anti-terror court convicted 100 people for the blasts.
Twelve were given the death penalty and 20 others sentenced to life imprisonment. Dutt, the most high-profile among the convicts, was originally charged with five offences, including criminal conspiracy and possession of illegal weapons.The trial court found him guilty of illegally possessing a rifle and a pistol but cleared him of conspiracy. The son of a Hindu father and a Muslim mother, Dutt said the weapons were necessary in order to defend his family during the Hindu-Muslim rioting of 1993 which followed the destruction by Hindu zealots of the Babri mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya.