PLEA FOR PARDONIN G SANJAY DUTT MISPLACED
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
The Supreme Court of India in its recent judgement found film star Sanjay Dutt guilty of possessing automatic weapons of prohibited bore without a valid license and sentenced him to five years imprisonment. It also transpired that the weapons had been delivered to him by notorious terrorists and anti-national elements who were involved in the anti-Hindu riots in Mumbai in 1993. Indeed it was a tragedy that had claimed 257 lives and 713 persons were injured and maimed. The victims were residents of the Hindu dominated areas and the cruel bombers were Muslims who later found safe havens in Pakistan. Sanjay Dutt was intimately in touch with Islamic terrorists because his mother ,Nargis Dutt was a Muslim and the young Dutt felt emotionally closer to the Muslim community. Of course, he found shelter in his Hindu father’s residence as it was a safe place being a house of a Member of Parliament, Sunil Dutt.
There was unimpeachable evidence of violation of the Arms Act in riot areas and under TADA the Court had no option but to impose the minimum sentence of five years imprisonment. Indeed the convicted man, Sanjay Dutt had already spent 18 months in prison during pendency of the case and was entitled to a remission of that period. Thus now the fact of spending three and a half years in prison stared him in the face. Here come his friends and sympathizers opening a campaign for grant of pardon to Sanjay Dutt by the Government of India through the President. It has led to a debate in the society whether it is a fit case for pardon or is just a propaganda for the cause of terrorism, if it could be called a cause.
LEGAL LUMINARIES LEAD
Why did the matter suddenly spring up and made to the headlines columns in the national dailies. The electronic media was not to be left behind. Times Now, an important TV news channel stole the limelight by fielding Shri Markandey Katju, a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India, Shri Mahesh Jethmalani, an eminent advocate of Mumbai and Delhi who were later joined by Shri Majid Memon, an advocate of Mumbai who is quite media savy. The immediate provocation to hold a TV discussion with the channel editor, Arnab Goswami as the Anchor cum compere was a letter written by retired justice Katju to the Rajyapal of Maharashtra, Shri K. Shankar Narayanan pleading for pardon for Sanjay Dutt because he had committed the crime two decades ago and is now a reformed man doing social service.
Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani opined quite articulately that Justice Katju’s plea of Sympathy for Sanjay Dutt, a convicted man now, was misplaced and misconstrued. Shri Mahesh Jethmalani brought out a legal point that the Governor of a State had no authority nor legal powers to grant a Pardon to the convict who was sentenced to a prison term for violation of provisions of the Arms Act by a TADA court. The retired judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Katju cited Article 161 of the Constitution of India under which the Governor enjoys constitutional powers that cannot be curbed or over ruled by other Acts of legislatures and, therefore, he had petitioned the Governor. I must appreciate Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani’s erudition and insight into the constitutional law that he promptly cited Article 162 of the Constitution of India that the powers of a Governor to grant Pardon are restricted by this over-riding Article applicable to cases of violation of the Arms Act. Justice Markandey Katju was gracious enough to concede the point to Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani and said that now he would write to the President of India making out a case for Pardon for Sanjay Dutt.
Let us leave aside the legal aspects of the case for grant of Pardon to Sanjay Dutt or otherwise and take up the social repercussion as an offshoot of the grant of Pardon or otherwise to the so called “ bad boy now turned a good boy”.
The laws are enacted by legislatures for smooth governance of the society. The Prosecution brings criminals to courts of law with the assistance of the Police and the Judiciary decides on the question of conviction or acquittal based on the evidence on record. After the judicial process is over, the convict is given a chance to appeal to the Head of the State for grant of Pardon that is decided on merit. The Head of the State takes many factors into consideration while making up his mind whether the particular case deserves to be pardoned or not. What Social Impact will the ultimate decision have. After all it is the social system that has to be protected. In a democratic society all citizens enjoy Equality before Law. The age-old maxim goes thus:
HOWEVER HIGH ONE MAY EVER BE, THE LAW IS ABOVE HIM.
It is crystal clear that the law of the land treats one and all, be he an actor or a labourer, as equals. Had there been an ordinary farmer or a labourer in place of Sanjay Dutt, will the legal system and the bigwigs therein go all out to make out a case for Pardon and present it to the Head of the State? If not, why should there be a special treatment given to actor Sanjay Dutt? As far as reviving Gandhigiri is concerned, the convict in question did his job as an actor and was paid for it. Like a farmer reaps what he sows, an actor should get a reward or a punishment for an act or omission and he does not deserve a special treatment. There is no need to raise a brouhaha and grant the convict a Pardon.
Have we gone to the bereaved families and ascertained their views? Many a family lost its bread winner and now lives in penury. The loved ones became victims of acts of terror and the 34 year old man, Sanjay Dutt was no innocent kid then that he knew not impact of his acts and omissions. It is on the Mumbai police record that Sanjay Dutt was hob-nobbing with notorious terrorists from Pakistan, India’s arch enemy, and was indirectly instrumental in causing a Trauma to fellow Mumbaikars. Does such a man as Sanjay Dutt deserve Pardon after his conviction by the Supreme Court of India?
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