Appeals for Sanjay Dutt but should he go free?

By Hindustan Times

The Supreme Court had on Thursday sentenced Bollywood actor Sunjay Dutt to five years in jail after upholding his conviction under Arms Act for illegally possessing prohibited weapons including an AK-56 rifle, which was part of the consignment of weapons and explosives brought to India for the 1993 coordinated serial blasts in Mumbai by Dawood Ibrahim and associates.

The veteran actor said that he believed in the judiciary and would explore legal options after the Supreme Court verdict.

"I still believe in the judiciary. My family is with me and I am still strong," he said in his first reaction to the judgement upholding his conviction in the 1993 case.

Meanwhile, Congress MP Priya Dutt said that their family would explore all the options to seek clemency for her actor-brother Sanjay Dutt.

"As a sister, as a family...we will always stand by him (Sanjay). That is what any loving family will do. It is only logical that as a family we will explore every option," Priya said in a press statement issued in Mumbai.

Actor Sanjay Dutt walks past a group of policemen outside Tada Court in Mumbai on 18 October 2006. (AFP)

While Dutt is busy exploring the available legal options, he has been receiving both support and opposition from all sides. The actor has received support from not just Bollywood but also from political circles.

People supporting mercy to Sanjay Dutt:

Digvijay Singh, Congress leader
"Sanjay Dutt is not a criminal, he is not a terrorist. Sanjay Dutt, at a young age, in the atmosphere of that time, thought that perhaps the way Sunil Dutt had been raising his voice against communalism and favoured the minorities, then perhaps he could be attacked," Digvijay Singh, told reporters in New Delhi on Sunday.

"So as an obvious reaction of a kid to do something, if he has committed a mistake then I feel that he has undergone the punishment for it," he said.

Rajiv Shukla, minister of state for parliamentary affairs:
"I know a lot of people have made this appeal. My sympathy is with Sanjay Dutt and his family. He has already suffered a lot but ultimately this decision can only be made by the judiciary."

Justice Markandey Katju, Press Council chief:
"Surely, this is a lesser offence than murder. When the Governor of Maharashtra granted pardon to Nanavati, surely he can grant pardon to Sanjay," Katju said.

Naresh Agarwal, SP leader:
"I would like to appeal to the government to give some relief to Sanjay Dutt so that he can do something for the country."

DP Tripathi, NCP leader:
"Even the Supreme Court found Sanjay Dutt not guilty of terrorist activities. I feel that the Maharashtra government should pardon Dutt and give him a reprieve. Justice Markanday Katju is right in his demand."

Jaya Bachchan, Actor-turned MP:
"He (Dutt) has already been punished enough. Twenty years is almost like life imprisonment. I mean he suffered for twenty years and I think to do this to him at this time..... I am going to personally meet the Governor," Bachchan told reporters outside Parliament House.

Bollywood supporters:

Superstar Rajinikanth:
"I was very disturbed when I heard about my friend and a lovely person Sanjay Dutt's verdict. The current support and appeal for his pardon is giving me hope. I pray to god that he gets remedy," Rajinikanth said in a statement.

Priyanka Chopra:
"My heart goes out to Sanju sir and his family..the nicest gentlest person..I pray for some respite for him through our judiciary.. (sic)".

Hrithik Roshan
"I cannot comprehend. I know d law is d LAW. But I can bet my Life 2 say that Sanju sir doesn't deserve this! D most loved man!i stand for Sanjay dutt. (sic)"

Mahesh Bhatt, director
"Man lives in hope and dies in hope! I am hopeful that the apex courts verdict will finally bring enduring peace in Sanjay Dutt's life."

Daboo Ratnani, photographer
"Shattered to Hear about @duttsanjay ...Love Him...He is Like My Elder Brother & has a Pure Heart of Gold. God give Him Strength (sic)"

Movie star Sanjay Dutt, 36, is mobbed by fans as he walks out of the high-security Auther Road prison in Bombay 17 October after he was granted bail. (AFP)

People opposing mercy to Sanjay Dutt

Gopinath Munde, senior BJP leader:
"Granting any remission to Sanjay Dutt would set a bad precedent. Sanjay Dutt should not be pardoned simply because he is a celebrity."

Balbir Punj, BJP MP:
"Supreme Court has decided as per the law. Supreme Court decision should be honoured otherwise it will be misunderstood that there are two laws - one for poor and another for famous people."

Anna Hazare, social activist:
"Sanjay Dutt should abide by the Supreme Court's decision and serve the sentence given to him."
"The judiciary has given its verdict. It is not proper to interfere with the court judgement."

Panchjanya, RSS mouthpiece:
"On the one hand there are family members of the victims who are looking for lines in the verdict that would cool their anger which has been simmering for the last two decades."

"...On the other hand are those who are crying for the star... that he has two small kids and hundreds of crores are at stake in Bollywood," Panchjanya says.

Poll:
In a poll conducted by hindustantimes.com, people were asked the question – Should the actor's prison sentence be reduced?

The poll results showed that 40% people voted in support of the actor while 57% people were against reduction of his prison sentence.

Legal options:
Earlier, his lawyer Satish Maneshinde had said he had accepted the punishment handed down by the apex court "as it is".

Maneshinde, who represented Dutt at the trial in the blasts case in the TADA court, said he had spoken to the actor who will have to undergo three-and-a-half more years in jail.

"Sanjay Dutt told me I have accepted the judgement as it is. I have accepted it," Maneshinde said quoting the actor. 'Dutt has accepted SC decision'

The lawyer said though they will pursue the legal course available, "I am not sure what relief he can claim".

"But Sanjay Dutt will abide by the apex court's order of undergoing the sentence of three-and-a-half years in letter and spirit. Three-and-a-half-years is not a long period," he said.

"We have prepared him (for sentence) from the very beginning. Sanjay Dutt is a strong man and will fight for himself," Maneshinde said.

Eminent criminal lawyer Majid Memon, who defended many of the accused in the case, said there was only a "narrow" window open for actor to seek relief after the Supreme Court judgement.

"He has only a narrow window of approaching a larger bench or file a review petition but in that case also, I am afraid that unless stay is granted on today's order, he will have to walk into the prison," Memon told reporters.

Describing as "unfortunate" Dutt's conviction, Memon said since the actor had already undergone 18 months' imprisonment, he was expecting that the apex court, after examining evidence against him and taking into account facts and circumstances singularly applicable to him, could give him the "benefit of sentence undergone".

The story so far:
Sanjay Dutt was convicted by the TADA court for illegal possession of a 9 mm Pistol and a AK-56 rifle which was part of the consignment of weapons and explosives brought to India for the coordinated serial blasts that killed 257 people and injured over 700.

53-year-old Dutt, son of famous bollywood couple late Sunil Dutt and Nargis, has already spent one and half years in jail and was out on bail. Sunil Dutt was a long standing Congressman and was a Union Minister.

Bringing to a closure the appeals by the convicts and the state in the 1993 Mumbai blast case, a bench of justices P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan upheld the death sentence of Yakub Abdul Razak Memon, brother of one of the absconding main conspirators Tiger Memon and life sentences of 16 of the 18 convicts.

The death sentence of 10 others was commuted to life sentence by the court which directed that they will remain in prison till death.

sanjayduttcourt1.jpg

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