Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Pardon to Sanjay Dutt

There are people who are for or against pardon to Sanjay Dutt. Markandey Katju appealed to Maharashtra Governor K. Shankaranarayanan to pardon Sanjay Dutt. Soon others jumped into the fray on one side or the other. TV channels took up the matter and gave the controversy wide publicity.
Many supporters of Sanjay Dutt are from Bollywood. Some are politicians. Jaya Bachchan, Mahesh Bhatt, Digvijaya Singh, Shatrughan Singh, Mamata Banerjee and Majeed Memon are on the side of Sanjay Dutt. Amar Singh and Jaya Pradha have submitted appeal for pardon to Governor. Mahesh Jethmalani, Swapan Dasgupta, Seshadri Chari oppose pardon to Sanjay Dutt. Subramanian Swamy has said he would challenge the pardon in court if granted.
Article 72 of the Constitution grants President the power to pardon. Article 161 of the Constitution grants Governor the power to pardon. Some argue that Supreme Court has ruled that the power to pardon should not be used capriciously or as act of grace to political activists but for public good. For long, courts held that President’s or Governor’s acts are not justiciable. Since some years courts have gone into the question of pardon after a large number of persons were pardoned in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
Reasons given for Sanjay Dutt’s pardon are: he has suffered a lot for 20 years, he was in jail for 18 months, he spread message of Gandhi through his films, his parents did good work, he has done lot of good work, and he has two little children. Those who oppose say those reasons are not good for granting pardon. Law should be same for all. There is equality before law. Celebrities should not get special treatment. What about other convicts in similar situations? Some counter that saying being a celebrity is a disadvantage as it gets adverse publicity. Other convicts are not opposed.
In Sanjay Dutt’s case law has taken its course. Now it is for the executive to take its course. TV channels have blown the issue out of proportion. The pardon relates to 42 months of imprisonment. Death sentence in India is in rarest of rare cases. Many who got death sentences have got commutations to life. TV channels did not hold such discussions then. Nobody has gone to court challenging the commutations.
Markandey Katju said he did not take up Sanjay Dutt’s case because he was a celebrity. He has taken cases of Gopal Dass, Sarabjeet Singh, and Khalil Chisty who are not celebrities. He has not seen a film for 40 years. If others deserve pardon he will consider their cases. After receiving material about Zaibunnisa he took up her case. He quoted the precedent of Nanavati getting pardon for Prem Ahuja’s murder. He wanted to be Portia and not Shylock of The Merchant of Venice. Seshadri Chari said he will send Pragya Singh Thakur’s details to Markandey Katju. On NDTV 24×7’s Left Right and Centre, Y. P. Singh questioned the propriety of Markandey Katju making the appeal and Markandey Katju told Nidhi Razdan that the topic of discussion was pardon to Sanjay Dutt and not propriety of his action and he had answered the question about propriety when he had spoken about Narendra Modi and BJP had raised it and he will not answer again. He told Nidhi Razdan to control Y. P. Singh and when she failed or did not oblige he said “You are not fit to be an anchor.”, and walked out of the show.
Sanjay Dutt’s case is different and less serious than Nanavati case. Nanavati was guilty of murder and sentenced to life. Sanjay Dutt is guilty of violation of Arms Act and sentenced to five years. The argument that Prem Ahuja’s sister agreed for pardon of Nanavati in writing and on that basis Governor Vijayalakshmi Pandit pardoned Nanavati and Sanjay Dutt will have to seek pardon from families of 257 persons who died in blasts is not valid because Sanjay Dutt did not kill them.
Whether Nanavati should have got pardon or not is a different matter. One good thing that happened due to his case was that India abolished jury system. USA and UK continue to have jury system and some decisions of jury defy logic. In Rodney King case the jury acquitted police officers and that led to riots.
A person having children or parents to take care of should not be a ground for pardon. Any rapist, murderer, abductor, kidnapper, pirate, hijacker, acid thrower, or someone who commits a high crime can come out on that ground. The ground can be Bombay was a notified area and therefore the sentence for possession of illegal firearm was five years and if Bombay had not been a notified area the sentence would have been two years or so.
If Articles 72 and 161 are repealed there will be no controversies over pardon.

Updated: March 28, 2013 — 7:46 am

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