Page last updated at 11:25 GMT, Tuesday, 31 March 2009 12:25 UK

Sanjay Dutt barred from election

Sanjay Dutt
Dutt is one of India's most bankable Bollywood stars

The Indian Supreme Court has ruled that Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, convicted for his role in the 1993 Mumbai blasts, cannot contest forthcoming elections.

The court declined Dutt's request to suspend his conviction saying he had been involved in a "serious offence".

The actor was sentenced to six years in jail in July 2007 for buying weapons from bombers who attacked Mumbai.

He was bailed in November 2007 and wanted to stand as a Samajwadi Party candidate while his appeal was heard.

The Samajwadi Party hoped he would run in Lucknow, capital of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

Responding to the ruling, Dutt, one of Bollywood's most bankable stars, said he abide by the court's decision.

'Serious offence'

The Supreme Court ruled the actor could not stand in elections for the duration of his sentence.

"It is not a fit case for suspension of conviction because of his [Sanjay Dutt's] involvement in a serious offence," its ruling said.

Under Indian laws, anyone who is convicted by a court and given a jail sentence for a period of two years or more is not allowed to contest elections.

"I am a law abiding citizen and I respect the court's decision," Dutt told journalists after the court order.

"But I'm not leaving Lucknow. This is my seat and it will remain so forever. Whoever replaces me as the candidate here, will be my candidate," he said.

Scene of Mumbai blasts in 1993
Hundreds of people were killed in the blasts

Dutt is appealing against his conviction in the Supreme Court.

The actor, who found fame playing gangsters and anti-heroes, is the most high-profile of 100 people convicted in connection with the blasts, which killed 257 people in Mumbai (Bombay).

He was originally charged with five offences, including criminal conspiracy and possession of illegal weapons.

The court found him guilty of illegally possessing firearms but cleared him of conspiracy.

During the course of the trial, Sanjay Dutt - the son of a Hindu father and Muslim mother - said the weapons were necessary in order to defend his family during the Hindu-Muslim rioting of 1993.

The violence followed the destruction by Hindu zealots of the Babri mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya.

The Mumbai blasts were allegedly carried out by the city's Muslim-dominated underworld in retaliation for the riots, in which most of those killed were Muslims.

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