Chorus for Sanjay Dutt pardon grows
New Delhi, Mar 22 : Clamour for granting pardon to Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, who was sentenced for five years in jail in the 1993 Mumbai bombings, grew on Friday with Press Council of India chairman Justice Markandey Katju appealing to the Maharashtra governor to use his power of mercy and the film and political fraternity joining the chorus for his reprieve.
However, another section of politicians are firmly opposed to any such move that treats a Bollywood star with a different yardstick after a Supreme Court verdict.
After Justice Katju set the mood with his letter seeking a pardon, Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said "Governor will use his discretionary power when there will be an appeal to him."
He said the governor has the power to pardon but "we should not comment on it."
Bollywood veteran actress and Samajwadi Party parliamentarian Jaya Bachchan said she would personally appeal to the governor of Maharashtra to commute the jail term of Sanjay Dutt in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case.
"He has already been punished enough. He suffered for 20 years," said Jaya Bachchan, calling Sanjay Dutt a changed man.
"I am going personally go and appeal to the Governor," she said.
The Supreme Court sentenced for five years Sanjay Dutt to jail for illegal arms possession during the Mumbai bombings that had killed 257 people in 1993 in the nation's financial hub.
Press Council of India chairman Justice Markandey Katju appealed to Maharashtra Governor K Sankarnarayanan to pardon Sanjay Dutt.
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.
Katju said he is not appealing because Sanjay Dutt is a star. "I have not seen a film in last 40 years," he said, but added that that Dutt, who even spread the message of Gandhiji with the Munnabhai films, should be pardoned since he was not a terrorist.
He said he is not even questioning the verdict of Supreme Court but only made an appeal to the Governor.
However, some political leaders and groups have criticised the move to get pardon for Dutt.
Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy said he would move the court if any such action to pardon him through the governor was taken.
"Why would the Supreme Court verdict by overturned? These are very good judges and one of them [who delivered the verdict] would be chief justice soon," he said.
"If that kind of thing happens I will have to challenge it in the court," said Swamy.
Legal eagle and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ram Jethmalani said Dutt was actually let off lightly.
Another BJP leader Balbir Punj said pardoning him because his father was linked to the ruling party (late Sunil Dutt was a Congress man) would send a wrong message and undermine Indian democracy.
Special public prosecutor in the Mumbai blasts case Ujjwal Nikam questioned the grounds of Katju on which he sought pardon. "I think the governor should not do this," he said.
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.