A day after the Supreme Court upheld actor Sanjay Dutt’s conviction in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case and sentenced him to five-year jail, there was a clamour for his pardon with MPs from tinseltown joining Press Council Chairman Justice Markandey Katju in seeking the Bollywood star’s release.
The government also indicated that it would take a decision on the matter if an application was filed on behalf of the actor.
Law Minister Ashwini Kumar said: “The governor will use his discretionary power when
there will be an appeal to him. He (governor) has the power to pardon.”
Actor-turned-MP Jaya Bachchan expressed her keenness to meet the Maharashtra governor to take up the issue.
Actor and Tourism Minister K Chiranjeevi said: “Being a friend of Sanjay Dutt, I will definitely see that he gets mercy. Once he gets mercy, nothing like that.”
Speaking to reporters outside Parliament, Bachchan said: “He (Dutt) has already been punished enough. Twenty years is almost like life imprisonment. I mean he suffered for 20 years.”
Justice Markandey Katju in a statement on Thursday urged Maharashtra Governor K Sankarnarayanan to pardon Dutt under Article 161 of the Constitution saying that the actor had not been found guilty of having played a role in the 1993 blasts. And he had suffered a lot. This is different from judicial power as the governor or the President can grant pardon or reduce the sentence of the court even if a minimum is prescribed.
Dutt (53) had been sentenced to the minimum five-year jail for possessing AK 56 and a pistol by the apex court, which upheld the TADA court’s decision to convict him but reduced his sentence by one year. Dutt has been ordered to surrender within four weeks. He had been in jail for 18 months in judicial custody.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said the authorities would look into the matter at the appropriate level. “Justice Katju has been a very eminent judge of the Supreme Court. Whenever he articulates a position on an issue, people both inside and outside the government listen to it carefully,” he told reporters outside Parliament.
“I am sure that those people within government, whether at the state government or level of various other instrumentalities of government, who are seized with the responsibility of dealing with the issue, take cognizance of the statement and then, if required, formulate an appropriate response and then come back,” he added.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) general secretary D P Tripathi also made a strong pitch for clemency to Dutt. The NCP is a part of the Congress-led coalition in Maharashtra as well as at the Centre. Tripathi said all constitutional remedies should be explored to grant Dutt clemency.
Actor Rajnikant said he was disturbed with the verdict and prayed for Sanjay Dutt so that he could lead his life peacefully.
The move, however, did not go down well with the BJP and its ally, the Shiv Sena. BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said, “The same rule of law applies to everybody in the country, be it some common man or somebody special.”