Katju calls for Sanjay Dutt pardon
New Delhi, Mar 21 : Press Council of India chairman Justice Markandey Katju has appealed to Maharashtra Governor K Sankarnarayanan to pardon actor Sanjay Dutt, who was sentenced on Thursday to five years in prison for illegal weapons' possession.
Katju sought pardon for Dutt under Article 161 of the Constitution, saying the actor had not been found guilty of playing a role in the 1993 blasts and had suffered a lot.
"There is no doubt that the Governor can grant pardon or reduce the sentence. In the case of Commander Nanavati, who was held guilty of murder, the Governor gave him pardon although the minimum sentence for murder is life term," Katju said in a statement.
"Surely, this is a lesser offence than murder. When the Governor of Maharashtra granted pardon to Nanavati, surely he can grant pardon to Sanjay Dutt," he said.
He said that although Dutt had committed an offence, there are extenuating circumstances, such as that the event happened 20 years ago.
"During this period, Sanjay suffered a lot and had a cloud hovering over his head throughout. He had to undergo various tribulations and indignities during this period. He had to go to court often, he had to take the permission of the court for foreign shootings, he could not get bank loans, etc," Katju said.
The Supreme Court on Thursday sentenced for five years Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case on charges of illegal arms possession linked to the terror attack, invoking sad reactions from the film industry which even now rides on the 53-year-old for box office success.
Dutt, who has played several gangsters in films and then endeared him as the Munnabhai essaying the role of a do-gooder gangster, was earlier sentenced to six years of imprisonment by an anti-terrorism court in July 2007.
Dutt, who is out on bail now after spending 18 months in prison, had challenged his conviction in the Supreme Court, but the court sentenced him for five years now.
The actor who enjoyed a sustained popularity in Bollywood despite his various run-ins with law, was convicted for possessing illegal weapons from the terrorists responsible for the Mumbai blasts that killed 257 people.
Dutt, who is the son of late legendary actor couple Nargis Dutt and Sunil Dutt, was accused of illegal possession of arms as lethal as an AK-56 rifle. He was, however, acquitted of graver charges under TADA or the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act.
Effectively Sanjay Dutt will now have to spend three years and eight months in jail.
Dutt was given four weeks to surrender though he is likely to file a review petition.
On March 12, 1993, twelve coordinated blasts in Bombay Stock Exchange, Air India Building at Nariman Point and hotels Sea Rock and Juhu Centaur resulted in death of at least 257 people and injury to more than 700.
It was alleged that the blasts were the instruments to avenge the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya in December 1992 and were allegedly conspired by underworld don Dawood Ibrahim (believed to be hiding in Pakistan now) and two other terrorists-Tiger Memon and his brother Yakub Memon.