After Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt landed in trouble for possessing an AK-47 which was part of the consignment that landed ahead of the March 12, 1993, serial blasts, he was initially represented by the legendary high-profile lawyer Ram Jethmalani.
However, when Ram Sahab left the brief, the late Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray suggested the name of budding lawyer Satish Maneshinde to his dear friend and actor-politician Sunil Dutt. Once a replacement of Jethmalani and extremely hardworking, Maneshinde took up the case of Sanjay Dutt.
He secured bail for him, got him acquitted of the terror charges in the TADA case and conspiracy behind the serial blasts though the actor served a five-year jail term for keeping a Kalashnikov assault rifle under the Arms Act.
The case gave Satish Maneshinde international limelight. Slowly he became one of Bollywood’s most preferred lawyers, having represented the likes of Salman Khan. Now he is representing Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan, who is involved in a case of a party and alleged seizure of drugs onboard cruise ship Cordelia.
For Maneshinde, the only shortcut to success is hard work. And that’s what he tells his juniors and law students. Maneshinde comes from a humble family from Bijapur (now Vijayapura) in Karnataka and is a proud ‘Ajeet’.
He studied at Sainik School in Bijapur, where all students are referred to as ‘Ajeets’. Later he studied law at the Karnatak University in Dharwad, where he secured the third position.
After he landed in Mumbai, then Bombay, in the early eighties, he happened to meet Jethmalani, and mustered the courage to request him to take him as an understudy — a big break for him — and rest is hard work.
“Satish is a ‘pucca’ Ajeet… he was a good student and hard worker. He comes from a humble background and he was always a confident man,” says one of his Mumbai-based friends, who was junior to him in the Sainik School.
In fact, Maneshinde’s batchmate is late Colonel MB Ravindranath, who commanded the Indian Army’s 2 Rajputana Rifles battalions that successfully captured the strategic heights of Tololing, Point 4590 and Black Rock in the Drass sector that dominated the Srinagar-Led Highway — which changed the course of the Kargil Conflict. “I missed the NDA and so did Satish... I took up engineering and Satish joined law... He was never dejected, never looked back but never forgot his roots,” said the schoolmate wishing anonymity.
“What I am today is because of my school upbringing,” Maneshinde often says with pride in formal and informal gatherings.
When he came to Mumbai he had a dream but today he has a name.
“I had known Maneshinde since I started covering the Mumbai serial blasts trial. At the advice of Balasaheb, the late Sunil Dutt gave the brief of his son Sanjay Dutt to him,” recalls veteran legal affairs journalist Sunil Shivdasani, who now spends time between Mumbai and Bengaluru.
According to him, Maneshinde is methodical, strategic and a good planner. “He handled the case (of Sanjay Dutt) very well after Jethmalani withdrew from the case,” he says. “Whatever the case may be, when he rises to address the court, he is very articulate, very brief and to the point in his arguments and legally very clear,” says Shivdasani. “In fact, Sanjay Dutt was very comfortable with Maneshinde and the actor often referred to him as “Sir” or “Uncle”... he has a knack for making his clients feel at home,” he said.
“In fact, even before the serial blasts case, he assisted Jethmalani in the AR Antulay case,” says journalist-turned-public relation professional, who is now involved in environment and nature initiatives.
Maneshinde has represented Salman Khan in the blackbuck poaching case.
In 2020, after the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, Maneshinde defended the late actor’s live-in partner Rhea Chakraborty and her brother Showik who were arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in a drugs case. He secured bail for the brother-sister duo.
After the mob lynching case in Palghar, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government appointed him as the Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) in the case.
Maneshinde has handled encounter-specialist Daya Nayak’s disproportionate assets case, the Shobhan Mehta match-fixing scandal and underworld don Chota Rajan’s wife Sujata Nikhalje in an organised crime case.
He also represented the Adarsh building society.
Maneshinde may be a celebrity lawyer, legal luminary and a highly paid lawyer, but for friends, he is just “Satish” and his love for fish continues.