NEW DELHI: Two days after the Supreme Court sentenced Sanjay Dutt to five years of jail under the Arms Act in relation to the 1993 Bombay blasts, Bollywood continues to proactively plead for the actor’s mercy.
Dutt was originally charged with five offences, which included criminal conspiracy and possession of illegal weapons. The designated trial court found him guilty of illegally possessing a rifle and a pistol but cleared him of conspiracy.
The son of a Hindu father and Muslim mother, Dutt said the weapons were necessary in order to defend himself and his family during the Hindu-Muslim riots of 1993.
The Supreme Court reduced Dutt’s jail term of six years, sentenced by the TADA court in 2007, to five years. The bollywood actor, who has already served 18 months in jail and is currently out on bail, is expected to surrender within the next four weeks to serve a jail term of 42 more months.
The 53-year-old bollywood actor said that he was ‘shattered and in emotional distress’ as he has suffered for the past 20 years. “I am heartbroken because today along with me, my three children and my wife and my family will undergo the punishment,” said Dutt in his statement.
Press Council Chief Justice Markandey Katju wrote a letter requesting Maharashtra Governor K. Sankarnarayanan to pardon Sanjay Dutt the five year sentence. Katju sought pardon for Dutt under Article 161 of the Constitution saying that actor had “already suffered a lot”.
Yesteryear Bollywood actress and Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan too has come forward in support of Sanjay Dutt. She says she will appeal to Maharashtra governor K Sankarnarayanan to pardon him. “I agree with everyone that he has suffered a lot. I believe that he should not be given such a big punishment. He is a changed man now. I’m going to personally appeal to the governor and ask him to pardon him,” said Jaya.
There is no doubt that the Maharashtra Governor can grant pardon or reduce Dutt’s sentence. But does he really deserve it?
The arguements in favour of the actor are: In the past 20 years that Dutt has been out of jail he has shown good conduct and has been involved in various charitable activities. He is on the board of directors of Save the Children Foundation. He has been very respectful of the court and has obliged to all the requirements such as taking the court’s permission every time he had film shootings abroad. His parents Sunil Dutt and Nargis Dutt used to do good social work.
However, while Bollywood continues to rally, there are many from the law enforcement and political arena, who question- “What has Sanjay Dutt really suffered from the past 20 years? He’s been out on bail, regularly travelling abroad, making movies, making money – where’s the suffering exactly?”
An exception to the emotional film fraternity, filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt clearly says that Sanjay “should be man enough” to accept the verdict and face the punishment meted out to him. Former IPS officer-turned-lawyer YP Singh has little sympathy for Dutt who he feels has clearly benefitted from the advice of professional image managers to evoke public sympathy and project himself as a victim of circumstances.
But there is no stopping the staunch plea of a “pardon” from Bollywood. From newbies to veterans the protest continues…
“I was very disturbed when I heard 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 and spends at least the rest of his life peacefully,” said Tamil super star Rajnikanth.
Writes Ajay Devgn, “Acquitted of TADA & all conspiracy charges. The only charge against him is the possesion of arms. The man has served 18 months and sat in trial for 20yrs. Sanju has been a model citizen thereafter. He may not be blameless but I think he has paid the price for his foolishness! What about you?”